Zoning regulations outline how you can develop a property, but what happens if you violate zoning laws? On the most general level, zoning laws indicate which properties can be used for commercial, industrial, and residential purposes. Yet drill down further, and you’ll find they restrict finer details such as how many homes can be built, where they can be placed, and how tall you can construct a fence. One point of contention in many cities nationwide is whether or not a vacant home or part of a home can be used as a short-term vacation rental.
Sometimes property owners make good-faith errors when determining how to use a parcel of land or house. In other cases, some people knowingly decide not to follow zoning laws. So what happens if you violate zoning laws?
The precise answer will be up to the government entity charged with enforcing the zoning regulations in your specific municipality. However, the following provides some general ideas about the ramifications.
Usually, zoning authorities learn about possible infractions through complaints issued by neighbors or community members. Once a complaint is received and reviewed, the authority may issue a citation to the property owner. The property owner will be required to appear in court or at another type of hearing, regardless of whether or not he decides to amend his property to adhere to the zoning regulation. It is wise for the property owner to investigate the zoning regulation and consult with a professional before the hearing to determine the specific legal consequences of the violation.
The fines could be somewhat limited in some jurisdictions and only require financial restitution. However, there is a good possibility that the penalty could involve a sum of money plus time in jail. It’s not uncommon for fines to accumulate based on the amount of time they are left unresolved ($X per day until the issue is resolved.)
Any governmental judgment process typically comes with an appeal process. If you receive a decision you disagree with, there are procedures to contest it. Often those appeals are heard by another group of decision-makers dedicated to hearing appeal cases. However, submitting an appeal does not provide a grace period, so any fines assessed will continue to accumulate and disappear only if the appeal is successful.
What should you do if you have questions about zoning regulations?
If you have questions about zoning regulations that affect your property or one you are considering for purchase, contact the professionals at Richard Stevens & Associates. We assist our clients with all work related to rural and urban land use planning permits and zoning laws. Our team will work to understand your needs and help you understand the legal processes involved with reconfiguring the classification of your property to achieve your goals.