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Can Zoning Dept. Change Zoning on a Property Currently Up for Sale If It Hurts Sale?

Discussion in 'Buying & Selling a Home or Residence' started by macgregormacgregor, Mar 7, 2021.

  1. macgregormacgregor

    macgregormacgregor Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Jurisdiction:
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    Shortly after I signed on with a real estate agent within 2-3 weeks I was told that the Zoning dept. changed the zoning on my multi family property up for sale. It contains 7 apts. I was also told that might affect either the ability to sell the property or the price I could get for it. I was in shock. I never received any kind of notice regarding the situation either by mail, by phone, or posted on the property. The real estate agent said they did it because there were no tenants occupying the property for over a year. Well, that was incorrect because the last person there was seriously ill in the hospital for a few months but still had his possessions in the apt. as well as an electric utility account for the apt. After he spent 3 months in a rehabilitation facility after being discharged from the hospital, his relatives came to pick up his possessions. I spoke with the electric company and told them I was now going to sell the property and needed to know if he had closed his account for the apt. They said he had recently done so. Therefore the apt. wasn't official vacant until about 5 months before I signed on with a real estate agent. Prior to that I had done some improvements on the property to prepare it for sale. That took up my time during which the property was vacant because I had to change contractors 3 times. Then I tried to sell the property myself for a couple of months, but none of the potential buyers were able to get the proper financing. And, once I signed with the agent it was only 2-3 weeks, like I mentioned, when this Zoning issue came up. I still haven't heard anything from the Zoning dept. I read that I most definitely should have heard something. I was even told by an organization that deals with zoning matters that there's generally a meeting held before a decision is made and with regard to such a property it would be likely. No other property in the area on that street has experienced any zoning changes. All the properties are apt. buildings, multi family residences, 2 restaurants, and a pharmacy. My property has been zoned the same for approximately 60 years or whenever zoning started in that area. The way I see it is some big error has been made by Zoning or there's an unknown factor involved. I was advised by several people as well as the organization I mentioned that I should really talk to that Zoning dept. The real estate agent advised against it saying he spoke with them and the person there was nasty and said I had no right to rent 7 apts. with zoning being changed. Well, that makes no sense for such a statement to be made it they thought it was vacant in the first place. Once again, when did this so-called change take place? The agent said he could tell potential buyers to get a variance so they don't have a problem if they want to remodel all 7 apts. I understand that a variance can cost $2-5,000. That would turn out to be monies subtracted from what a buyer would pay me. Also, why should Zoning be allowed to get away with something so obviously wrong. They should be made to put it back right. I most definitely have a hardship case financially and for them to supposedly do that when I'm in the middle of trying to sell it is just downright outrageous. They might as well own the property themselves because nowadays there have been endless cases around the country where these local bureaucrats look for every angle they can find to gain monies for the local governments' pockets at the property owners expense with fines, etc. I've read about cases everywhere. It's as good a time as any to move out somewhere and go off the grid as an alternative. I'm trying to retire, and that Zoning situation doesn't make it easier if I'm going to lose money over it. Just what is the wisest thing to do about this situation? I couldn't even think about a lawyer until after I sell the property, unless I found one to take the case on a contingency basis.
     
  2. justblue

    justblue Well-Known Member

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    Big block of text, with no paragraphs, is hard to read.
     
  3. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    First of all, don't believe anything the realtor tells you. He wants to sell the property, get his commission, and walk away leaving you holding the bag if something goes awry.

    Variances are hard to get. If somebody tells a buyer that they can be got and then they can't, guess who is likely to get sued.

    I suggest you visit the zoning office personally and find out what the zoning designation was, what it is now, why it was changed and ask to READ the zoning code that applies to the change. Get copies of any documents that apply.

    You need to resolve this before you sell the property.
     
  4. macgregormacgregor

    macgregormacgregor Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Sounds reasonable to me. I'll do that. Thanks!
     
  5. welkin

    welkin Active Member

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    What you describe could be what is called spot zoning which is not legal. That is where a parcel or several parcels are zoned differently then the surrounding parcels. There are plenty of cases in Louisiana case law if you want to read up on the subject.

    However, it might be that a zoning ordinance was passed in the past that changed the zoning for your area not to allow certain uses apartments being one of them. That would make your use of the property nonconforming in use. But you would be able to continue the use until the use was abandoned. Hence, they may be claiming that you abandoned the use.

    You really should speak with a land use and zoning attorney after you get the relevant zoning documents.
     
  6. macgregormacgregor

    macgregormacgregor Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I understand. I contacted an attorney this morning. I'm waiting on a reply. If he's not interested or doesn't have the time, I'll keep looking for one that does.
     
  7. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    Before you commit to an attorney I suggest you pay a visit to the zoning department and do your own research. Otherwise the attorney will charge you hundreds per hour to do it for you.
     
    justblue likes this.
  8. macgregormacgregor

    macgregormacgregor Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Yes, I have been doing just that.
     

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