Before You Buy a Legal Nonconforming Property…

Most North American municipalities have zoning regulations in place. These rules govern land use and the structures permitted on that land. As communities advance, the zoning needs and requirements for future development evolve. As a result, some properties fall out of step with the current zoning regulations. This is known as a legal nonconforming property.

Is it a good idea to invest in these properties? The following key considerations will help guide your decision.

Understand the building status: There are two types of nonconforming status, legal and illegal. Legal nonconforming properties are properties that existed prior to zoning changes and can continue operating in their current capacity. Illegal nonconforming properties don’t comply with legal zoning requirements and often underwent extensive alteration without the necessary permits.

Be aware of time frames: Legal nonconforming properties must be operated in the same manner on a continuous basis. If the property is left vacant prior to the sale, this would not be continuous use, and the grandfathered zoning may no longer apply.

Know the zoning: Familiarity with zoning regulations in your target area is crucial. Although the local planning departments can give you guidance, rezoning applications are not always approved. Therefore, it is best to have answers to the following before purchasing: Does zoning allow for the building’s current use? Is that use transferable to a new owner? Will it be possible to rezone the property to allow it to conform to the current zoning requirements? If your sale necessitates rezoning, it is recommended that you seek professional advice.

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