Impact of Non-Conforming Use on Commercial Real Estate Contract



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When an owner of land or property has made changes or improvements to the land before current zoning laws are in effect, he or she has taken advantage of non-conforming use in a commercial real estate contract. This stipulation exempts or excepts the property from city zoning ordinances and the requirements do not apply.

It is crucial for a landowner to pay attention to clauses in a contract and what applies to the real estate property. If he or she is able to change or improve the land for the better of his or her business, it is vital the modifications finalize before city zoning changes to encompass the land. If the zoning restricts what the owner wants to accomplish, he or she will not have the opportunity to do so unless the zoning ordinances change again. The clause of non-conforming use amends the contract for future need with the local and state governing officials. This protects the landowner from possible repercussions.

Zoning Restrictions

When the non-confirming use amends a contract with a real estate deal, the owner is safe from the local and state government restrictions. However, the zoning limits certain changes after they are in effect. This could require the owner of a parcel of land to keep certain types of windows or style of buildings. Others may prevent the owner from adding construction to his or her property. Some restrictions affect how large the inside may be, and others stop the owner from placing more bathrooms or trash areas outside. Before proceeding with plans, it is crucial to review these limitations.

What Is Zoning?

Ordinances in a local town or city require residents that own property to adhere to certain specifics. These may alter how large parking lots may be. Others restrict the style based on aesthetics. Some ordinances do not permit landowners to build structures beyond a particular width or height. This affects both owners of commercial and residential property. To add another bathroom or garbage spot, the individual or business owner may need to check the zoning guidelines. This affects what can be accomplished and what limits apply. For a commercial business, the best way to bypass the zoning is to ensure construction and other projects complete before they take effect.

The Effects of a Non-Conforming Use

The stipulation of non-confirming use in a lease agreement or when the property already has construction started may bypass zoning requirements. This is often in direct opposition of zoning laws, but because the regulations implementation did not occur before the project started, the landowner may still finish. The non-conforming use predates the current zoning laws and which let the owner of the commercial or residential property to keep his or her modifications. However, he or she may not violate any previous zoning restrictions during the construction. In certain situations, the owner may ask for permission to proceed. Only with consent may he or she continue if the project was not in existence before the new zoning laws.

The Restriction of Time

Most of the zoning complications that affect a landowner or business owner occur through time limitations. It is a race against the clock to ensure non-conforming use becomes part of a lease or purchase agreement. The clause supersedes the laws in place. Then, the owner of the land may construct the buildings or extensions necessary to expand business. Without violating these laws, the individual may change needed structures and the land itself. Often, the activity involves expansion outside or inside the building. The exceptions to zoning laws need to occur before they take effect. Sometimes, this requires experts weighing in on the project and explaining when certain jobs must finish.

Remedies for Non-Conforming Use

Because construction requires time and a race against local ordinances, the owner of the land must ensure his remedy to the situation is valid. This often requires professionals explaining multiple aspects of these laws and how to include a non-conforming use condition in the lease or purchase documents. When there is no conflict, government agencies or local government officials may permit the construction or alterations. However, conflict may lead to a number of possible remedies.

Legal Battles in Non-Conforming Use

It is up to the owner of the land to hire a lawyer in conflict with local government for zoning issues. This may involve destruction of structures, disuse of land or changes to zoning. The lawyer will help ensure the non-conforming use clause is valid.


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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.
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