Before purchasing or leasing commercial property, it is vital that you understand what zoning ordinances apply to that property. One of the biggest mistakes that newer commercial purchasers and lessees make is to assume that since a previous occupant used a commercial property for a specific purpose that they will be able to use the property for the same purpose.
This is not always the case. According to FindLaw, when you are selecting your next commercial property make sure you are aware of previous non-conforming use, whether or not variances exist or if there are conditional use requirements.
Understanding non-conforming use
It is possible that the previous tenant or owner of the property benefited from prior zoning laws. Normally, in the event that the government changes zoning laws, prior tenants and property owners are “grandfathered” into the old use of the property. However, if you are the new purchaser or lessee, you may not benefit from this.
Understanding variances and conditional use
In addition to non-conforming use, it is also possible that the prior owner or lessee of the property had a special permit to use the property in a zoning-contrary way. These permits are “variances,” and you should absolutely ask if these exist.
Even in the event that the zoning ordinances of your desired property allow you to use the property for your preferred purposes, make sure that you know about any conditional use requirements. For instance, if you are running a business in a residential area, you might need to secure a certain number of off-street parking spaces. Due diligence can help spare you expensive headaches later.