ILNews

Home day care presents first-impression

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The Court of Appeals ruled on a case of first impression involving whether a licensed child care facility constitutes residential or commercial use of the owner's residence.

In Jeannie Lewis-Levett v. Richard D. Day and Martha A. Day, 50A03-0705-CV-199, Lewis-Levett appealed the trial court's summary judgment ruling in favor of the Days. As owners and operators of Golfview Estates, the Days recorded covenants applicable to the lots there, which prevents buildings in the neighborhood being used for "any trade, business, manufacture or profession." Lewis-Levett began a licensed day care in her home in the neighborhood, caring for up to 12 children during the week. On her tax forms, she indicated 60 percent of her home is used for the day care.

The Days filed a complaint requesting a temporary and permanent injunction against Lewis-Levett's day care in her residence and attorney fees; Lewis-Levett filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Days and awarded attorney fees.

Lewis-Levett argued the trial court erred in granting summary judgment enjoining her from running the licensed day care in her home because a licensed day care is residential use of her home. She cited Stewart v. Jackson, 635 N. E. 2d 186, 193, where the Court of Appeals held that the operation of an unlicensed home day care constituted residential use and did not violate the restrictive covenants of its neighborhood.

The question of whether a licensed day care constitutes residential use is a matter of first impression for the court because Stewart is limited to unlicensed day care in homes. In Stewart, the court examined the number of children in the day care, its income, and the increase of traffic to determine whether it was residential use.

In this case, Lewis-Levett cares for 12 children, which means she could have 12 vehicles coming and going from her home throughout the day - more than normal for the neighborhood. She also uses 60 percent of her home for the business. Because the Indiana legislature has enacted extensive regulation of licensed day care homes that have more than six children, it shows them to be commercial enterprises.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the summary judgment enjoining Lewis-Levett from operating a licensed home day care. Public policy in favor of home day care is not without limits; although public policy favors home day care, such policy isn't violated by the enforcement of the restrictive covenants in this case, Judge Edward Najam wrote for the majority.

The Days cross-appealed the trial court ruling, saying it erred in not enjoining Lewis-Levett from having any type of child care in her home. The evidence showed she ran a licensed day care, so the trial court granted the relief requested in the amended complaint because the trial court did not have the case of "any" day care before it when ruling. The Court of Appeals denied the Day's cross appeal.
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