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Zoning Basics for Homeowners & Investors

by Ridge Hill Realty 10/13/2020

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

The regulations of real estate zoning have the potential to make or break a property, but not everyone is aware of these laws until they're confronted with the day-to-day realities of them. We'll look at the basics of zoning, and what investors and homeowners should keep in mind before making plans. 

There Are Few Absolutes 

When it comes to real estate zoning, there are very few assumptions you can make. Some neighborhoods give property owners near-total freedom to do whatever they like. Outside of breaking federal laws, owners are free to add, build and destroy at will. In other neighborhoods, there may be laws that govern practically any change you would ever want to make.

You may need to apply for any number of permits before you can be approved to improve your own property. If you live in an HOA, the regulations will become even more stringent, impacting everything from the color of your home to the length of your grass blades. 

Professionals May Have to Get Involved

Zoning laws may prevent owners from doing their own repairs, instead requiring them to contact a pre-approved contractor to complete the job. Or they may allow you to complete the job, only on the condition that you schedule an inspector to certify that the safety of the property. These laws are put in place because one owner's plumbing fiasco can quickly spread to a neighbor's yard, and one electrical miswiring can extinguish the power on the whole block. The good news is that even the most stringent neighborhoods will typically allow property owners to do their own prep work before professionals arrive. 

Zoning Laws Change 

Zoning laws are not static, which can make them confusing to adhere to. There's plenty of unpermitted work all over the nation, and it can cause a lot of headaches for owners if they're challenged to prove when and how work was completed. Because of this, you're encouraged to do a little research before making changes to the property. In addition, keep track of all receipts and documents that show the dates of the changes. And if you're planning to buy a home, consider how future laws might impact the property. For example, if your land comes under environmental protection status, it may severely impact its value and functionality. 

The zoning laws aren't there to impede property owners (although it may feel that way at times). These regulations were created to keep everyone in the area protected from serious property fiascos. Knowing the rules before you buy and following them after is a good way to keep yourself out of trouble. 

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