Real Estate Law



Zoning laws are one of the more complex realities of real estate. At Grcic Law, we strive to protect our clients’ individual and business interests. As such, we seek to educate our clients on how zoning laws can affect their real estate investments.

What Is Zoning?

Zoning laws are rules or ordinances that define how businesses can use plots of land and properties. Typically, local governments set zoning laws, and all cities have specific laws in place. Zoning laws are essential for commercial real estate as they determine what kinds of businesses and construction processes can occur on a given plot of land.

How Does Zoning Work?

Generally speaking, city governments define zoning laws before land development takes place. However, cities can add or modify zoning laws after the fact as well. Zoning laws divide land into sections and dictate how, exactly, businesses and homeowners can use that land.

Cities divide zoning laws into residential and commercial uses. Most of the time, zoning laws exclude certain types of property uses. For example, residential zoning laws may forbid the construction of multi-family housing units in a specific spot. Similarly, commercial zoning laws may prohibit certain industrial processes on land, such as mining.

Among other things, commercial zoning laws determine:

  • The type of allowed businesses
  • What activities the business can perform
  • What activities the business cannot perform

Other restrictions in zoning laws include:

  • Landscaping
  • Architectural style
  • Aesthetic elements (e.g., building color)

Can Zoning Laws Change?

Yes, zoning laws can, and often do, change over time. Changes in zoning laws can negatively affect homeowners and businesses in a particular location. For instance, a change in zoning laws can effectively forbid buildings for commercial use. The term “zoning variance” refers to exceptions that allow properties of a particular type to remain after zoning changes.

Zoning laws may also have “grandfather clauses.” A grandfather clause is an exception in zoning laws that exempts an individual or business from enforcement of new zoning laws or zoning changes. Grandfather clauses are relatively common for zoning laws that may negatively affect business activity.

Can I Avoid Zoning Laws?

You cannot avoid zoning laws entirely, but you can perform research to understand precisely how zoning laws will affect your home or business activity. Researching zoning laws can help you determine what regulations your business or home must follow.

For example, some regions have non-compete zoning laws that limit the number of similar businesses that can set up shop. Rules may also define what kind of material the building must use and what signs they can have. You may be able to apply for a zoning variance if current rules present an undue hardship for property owners.

If you violate zoning ordinances, you may have to deal with:

  • Financial damages
  • Civil penalties
  • Loss of business license
  • Forceful sale of property
  • Costly updates

As such, it is in your best interest to hire a real estate attorney who can help you understand zoning laws and how they will affect your property. Grcic Law strives to ensure that our clients are prepared for any type of real estate transaction.

If you are interested in learning more about zoning laws in Park Ridge, IL, and the surrounding areas, contact us at 847-696-6196 today to schedule a free consultation.

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