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Veterans Realty Group | Homeowner Advice
faq-icon.png Building Permits and Zoning
  • How can I find out how my property is zoned?

    Zoning ordinances and maps are a matter of public record. Visit your local zoning office, city hall, or some other local planning board and get a copy of your local ordinance.
    In some areas, if you have a legal description of the property (name, address, tax map, and parcel number), you can call the zoning office or city hall, or even e-mail your request for information.
    Some communities also have their zoning maps and ordinances online and in local libraries.
  • How do building codes work?

    Building codes set minimum public-safety standards for such things as building design, construction, use and occupancy, and maintenance. The codes are established and enforced by local politicians and government officials, who also tend to modify them constantly. The codes are usually enforced by denying permits, occupancy certificates, and by imposing fines.
    While codes vary from one state, county, city, and town to the next, specialized codes generally exist for plumbing, electricity, and fire. Each usually involves separate inspections and inspectors.
    There are building codes for most remodeling jobs. So if you have done significant remodeling, make sure you save proof of the permits involved in the project. There is a good chance potential buyers may request them. Failure to obtain the appropriate permits before you undertake a project could later result in fines or other serious consequences, such as having a structure ordered to be torn down because it was constructed improperly.
  • Should I always get a permit before making home improvements?

    To save both time and money, some people avoid getting building permits. But most cities require them. Besides ensuring safety during construction – housing inspectors sometimes stop by to check on the progress of projects at key points – they are also a source of revenue.
    Cities charge a fee when a building permit is issued. Also, work done with a building permit can result in an increase in the homeowners’ property taxes because, in general, a home improvement increases the assessed value of the property.
    Permits are usually required when any structural work is planned or the basic living space of a home is altered. They generally cover new construction, repairs, alterations, demolition, and additions to a structure. Some jurisdictions require the permit to be posted in a visible spot on the premises while the work is being done.
    Besides structural changes, permits also may be needed to cover the installation of foundations for tanks and equipment, as well as the construction or demolition of ducts, sprinkler systems, or standpipe systems.
    By law, all buildings must have a building permit and a certificate of occupancy before they can be used.
  • What do zoning regulations do?

    Zoning is the government’s way of controlling the physical development of land and the kinds of uses to which each individual property may be put.
    Zoning regulations establish how the land can be used, either for residential, industrial, commercial, or recreational purposes – although they also can allow for more than one use in a given jurisdiction.
    Designed to protect you, your neighbors, and the community from undesirable, or inappropriate, land uses and/or construction, zoning laws in many communities can be very rigid and inflexible.
    On the other hand, they can protect your property value and give you a piece of mind. This is particularly true in instances where the community debates whether to locate a prison in your neighborhood or a neighbor illegally builds a second story onto his home that blocks your view of the lake or mountains.
    Before you begin any remodeling jobs, determine how your local zoning laws might affect your project.
  • What is a variance?

    It is a request made to your local jurisdiction to deviate from current zoning requirements. If granted, a variance will allow you to use your land in a way that is normally not permitted by the zoning ordinance.
    However, do not view a variance as something that changes the zoning law because it does not. Rather it waives a certain requirement of the zoning ordinance. For example, it may allow the owner of an odd-shaped lot to reduce slightly the setback requirements in order to accommodate a building, or permit the building of a gazebo in the back yard.

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