How might zoning regulations violate your land ownership rights?

On Behalf of | Nov 7, 2023 | Real Estate Law

Property owners in Pennsylvania have certain rights related to their land ownership. They have the right to quietly enjoy their property and utilize it as they see fit, provided that their use of the land complies with local and state law. They also have the right to dispose of the property as they wish, which would often mean selling it to someone else.

Unfortunately, sometimes zoning statutes in Pennsylvania communities end up affecting a property owner’s rights. The state or municipality may impose restrictions on land use that will affect someone’s utilization of the property or their ability to sell it for a reasonable price. For example, commercial zoning laws can impact the type of buildings allowed, boundary lines, and parking requirements. Examples of residential zoning laws can dictate the types and number of residential units, the height of the unit, and how far from the property line the home can be built. The following are some of the ways that zoning may influence someone’s rights as a property owner.

Their use could become inappropriate

When local municipalities impose zoning regulations or update existing zoning rules, those changes can have a direct impact on how people are able to make use of their property. A building that was previously compliant with the law might now be too close to the road or to a boundary line.  Or a use that was once permitted could suddenly become unlawful.

That could result in an order to tear down an improvement, which would substantially reduce the value of the land or affect someone’s ability to use it as they see fit. Changes in zoning could also force someone to go to court to obtain a variance that will allow them to continue using the property as they previously had. Seeking a zoning variance can be both time-consuming and expensive.

Their profit upon sale may decrease

A residential property in an area rezoned for commercial or industrial use may be eligible for a variance for as long as the current owner lives there. However, when they want to sell the property, they may not be able to charge a reasonable amount because the buyer could be reluctant to live in a commercial or industrial area.  Therefore, significant changes to zoning rules can impact how profitable the sale of real property will be when an owner wants to move.

In theory, state or local law should not infringe on the rights of individual property owners, but in practice, zoning regulations can often have a chilling effect on an individual’s rights and on the financial benefits that they derive from property ownership.  On the other hand, zoning can also enhance property values by preserving neighborhoods and prohibiting undesirable uses of property.  Taking the appropriate legal steps to respond to proposed zoning changes or recently implemented changes can help preserve someone’s rights and their investment in real property.

Reaching out to the team at Max L. Lieberman & Associates, P.C.. at 610-936-6612 can help people more effectively address a possible or recent zoning change that affects their property rights.