When people talk about potential zoning issues or the way that zones work within different municipalities, they often simplify things by stating that there are residential zones and commercial zones. In a residential zone, you can build a home; in a commercial zone, you can open a business.
It seems simple, right? Not so fast.
There are varying shades of meaning when it comes to commercial zoning
It’s not that the idea of commercial and residential zones isn’t true, but it paints a picture with far too broad of a brush. In the world of commercial zoning, for instance, not all zones are the same and not all businesses are permitted.
For instance, if you want to open a gym, you may not be able to do so in a zone that doesn’t allow that specific type of business, though a retail center or a gas station may be allowed. If you buy any commercial property and start renovating it, you may quickly discover that the city won’t let you open your doors without getting a variance or being allowed specific permission.
What if you’re buying a business that was already in use?
One mistake that people make is assuming that previous use signifies legal use. Don’t make this mistake. Even if you are buying a building that was already being used the way that you want to use it, you should check the zoning for that area to make sure it is allowed. It could be that the previous owner was already violating the zoning regulations, whether they knew it or not. Don’t follow their lead with something this important.
If you do run into any significant issues while trying to get everything in order, make sure you know exactly what legal steps you can take to protect your interests. The due diligence you exercise now can save you a lot of trouble in the future.