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Before buying property, look at the property’s zoning

Zoning regulations and restrictions are used by municipalities in Illinois to regulate how land is used and developed within state borders. The main purpose of zoning laws is to divide municipalities into commercial, residential and industrial districts. Within these three districts, additional zoning requirements and regulations are used to detail how property can be used.

Why is it important to understand zoning laws?

Before buying property, it is imperative that future homeowners understand the zoning laws that pertain to the area in which they desire to purchase a home. This is because an area’s zoning laws often dictate what type of commercial or business activities can be conducted. For example, if a property buyer desires to run a small business from their home, whether it’s a childcare service, wholesaling activities or professional services, the area’s planning scheme may or may not allow it. In some situations, a permit may be required to conduct business activities while in others, the city may prohibit it altogether.

Additionally, understanding an area’s zoning laws can help potential homeowners understand what structures and buildings are allowed to go up near their property that could enhance or reduce its value. For instance, if a property buyer wishes to build a new home in a quiet neighborhood, they may not want to purchase a house in an area where the zoning laws would allow a new car dealership to go in right down the street. Or, if an area is zoned for the development of more commercial properties, a potential homeowner may wish to purchase a home in this area for added convenience to local businesses.

Illinois’ zoning laws

Once an area’s zoning laws are enacted, they can often be difficult to change. According to the Illinois General Assembly, in municipalities with a population of 500,000 or more, variations to an area’s real estate zoning laws may be granted only if the intended use of the building is in harmony with the overall purpose of the regulations and only in cases where there are practical difficulties relating to the use of the land.

When someone wishes to receive an exception to an area’s zoning laws, they must provide the board of appeals with evidence that the property cannot be used reasonably under current zoning laws, the desire to change the property’s zoning is due to unique circumstances and that the change in zoning will not alter the overall character of the surrounding area.

Zoning laws are often highly detailed and difficult to interpret. Property buyers who wish to gain a better understanding into an area’s zoning laws may benefit from consulting with an attorney.

House with a beautiful landscaped garden

He helps clients resolve issues relating to family law, including divorce, parenting time and parental responsibilities, paternity, and child support. As a skilled real estate attorney as well, Scott also provides advice and legal representation to clients who are purchasing or selling residential or commercial property in Illinois. 

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