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Navigating Zoning Laws for Property Managers

Thad King
April 19, 2024

Whether you’re a property manager specializing in single-family home rentals or multi-family units or work with various types of businesses, zoning regulations affect your profession. Zoning laws can affect everything from lease agreements to residential and commercial development, and specific regulations can impact how you manage properties and tenant relationships.

To help you navigate zoning laws as a property manager, we’ve gathered together some valuable insights from around the web you can use to make your job easier. Zoning ordinances vary from place to place, so you’re encouraged to consult with a real estate professional and attorney for guidance on laws in your specific area; however, the following can serve as general guidance on zoning laws for property managers:

Understand the Types of Property Classifications in Your Area

The first step in navigating zoning laws for property managers is understanding the various property classifications in your area. For example, some areas have industrial zones where others do not. Likewise, what is allowed in a residential zone of one town may be required to be listed in a commercial zone in another.

Local zoning laws tend to have a big impact, so you will want to check with your local authorities to clarify what is allowed in certain areas. Real estate agents can again be valuable resources when tracking down this information. In and around the Southern California region, community planning commissions are sometimes involved in zoning, so consider attending public meetings of such organizations when possible to better understand the technicalities affecting zoning in your area.

Understand Your Role, Rights and Responsibilities

It’s also important for property managers to understand their roles, rights, and responsibilities. No matter what type of property you manage or what type of zoning your properties fall under, this is a challenge. In some areas, property owners may have more obligations; in others, property managers acting on behalf of property owners may have more responsibilities. Understanding local and state regulations for your property types can change how much zoning impacts your daily tasks.

For example, suppose you manage properties in a residential zone, and one of your tenants starts a home-based business. In that case, you need to know whether it’s your responsibility to notate or report this or whether the property owner or tenant is responsible. Similarly, suppose you manage several dwelling units, and your property does not have the required parking spaces. In that case, you need to know whether it’s up to you to rectify this or whether the property owner is responsible for adding parking spaces.

Zoning and Property Alterations

Zoning can also affect property alterations, including additions, repairs, and renovations. For example, whereas the average pool renovation may be a fairly simple undertaking at a property zoned for residential use, it may require more oversight from a zoning or planning committee if it is in an area zoned for commercial use.

Renovations may also be required for areas zoned for different uses when it comes to accessibility. A single-family home in a residential zone may have fewer accessibility requirements than a business located in a commercial or industrial zone. Knowing the specifics of accessibility requirements based on zoning for your properties can help you avoid potential fines, fees, and lawsuits.

Get Involved With Your Zoning Board

Lastly, you’re encouraged to join your local zoning board or committee. As mentioned above, some areas of the country have community planning committees that help define zoning laws and regulations. In other areas, local and state governments have more oversight regarding zoning. Areas, where local, state, and federal properties intersect, may have different zoning laws and rules due to special circumstances.

You don’t have to sit on one of these boards or committees to affect change. Simply attending meetings, speaking as a member of the public, or asking questions can help you ensure your voice is heard and receive answers that clarify your obligations as a property manager.

Attending such meetings can also help you stay on top of the latest developments surrounding zoning in your area. In general, it’s up to you to know about the zoning for the properties you manage, and changes in zoning or zoning laws can directly impact your rights and responsibilities. When you attend zoning hearings, you can stay informed about your properties and how you need to manage them.

Remember That Your Role is to Manage Properties and People

Navigating zoning laws for property managers is a big undertaking because your role is more than just managing properties – it’s about managing people. Your tenants expect you to have all the answers, and when zoning laws directly affect your tenants, they will want you to be able to provide some type of guidance. This is where staying on top of the latest developments in zoning for your properties becomes key.

When you’re current on the latest, you can pass this information along to your tenants. Keeping your tenants informed about zoning changes can reduce the potential for conflict later on, and it will help you foster and further your relationships with tenants to build a stellar reputation in the community. Happy tenants typically mean on-time rent payments and positive word-of-mouth marketing in the community, all of which amount to an easier job for you.

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