Why Should You Care About Zoning Laws?


Many people who purchase real estate think about factors like how much a property may cost, or how it looks, or whether it is large enough for their needs. What they may not consider, at least at first, is whether local zoning laws might interfere with those ambitions. If they are not careful, though, zoning ordinances may become a major source of legal headaches and financial woes.


What Are Zoning Laws?


    Zoning refers to a practice used by most cities, towns and villages, which dictates where certain kinds of buildings can be built and how they can be used. These laws can also regulate the size of buildings, their density, and other factors that might impact the community in which they are built. Zoning laws may also impose environmental regulations, especially in areas where there is concern about pollution or other types of environmental damage.


What Kinds of Zoning Are There?


    The three primary types of zoning are residential, commercial, and industrial. These break down as follows:


  • Residential: Any area zoned for residential buildings are intended to be places where people live. These are often broken up into “low density” residential areas (including single family homes or buildings with few residential units) and “high density areas” (including apartments and condominiums with large numbers of units).
  • Commercial: Any area zoned for places where regular businesses that do not perform manufacturing are located. This may include office buildings, shopping malls, warehouses, hotels, and other similar structures.
  • Industrial: Any area zoned for businesses that perform manufacturing or packing, including factories, storage facilities, and power plants.

In addition, some places have “mixed use” zoning, which combines residential and commercial zoning, while others have agricultural zoning, where farmland can be located. 


How Is it Possible to Violate Zoning Laws?


    The primary way that people violate zoning laws is by attempting to build a type of building on a property that is not zoned for it. Other times, someone may modify a building in a way that makes it incompatible with zoning ordinances, such as by converting a single family home into a multi-family apartment building. In still other cases, someone may construct their building in a way that obstructs other buildings, limiting light or air flow in a way that violates local zoning laws.


What Happens if You Violate Zoning Laws?


    Anyone who violates zoning regulations may find themselves dealing with significant legal and financial consequences. Any construction on the property may be halted, and the developer may face significant legal costs and fines trying to work out the problems. That is why you should hire a real estate lawyer with knowledge of zoning law, who can make sure you are in compliance before it becomes a problem.


    The law office of Georgaklis & Mallas PLLC is experienced in various areas of real estate-related transactions. The firm’s skilled attorneys handle both commercial and residential transactions on behalf of lending institutions, real estate investment and management companies, business and individual clients. Call (718) 238-2400 for more information or to schedule a consultation.