You are the king or queen of your castle and you make the rules, right? Not so fast, your majesty! You pay the mortgage, maintain the home and property and keep up with the property taxes — but your local municipal zoning and land use boards are in charge of saying what you can do with your property in terms of improvements.
All pieces of land in New Jersey are “zoned” and each type of zone has its own guidelines about who can occupy the land and what can be done to the property and buildings. Zones includes residential, commercial, industrial and warehouse, as examples, as well at preserved property such as wetlands.
This is important because if you are intending to open a business in your house, but you buy in a residential neighborhood, you will have to request a variance, or exclusion, from the current zoning laws. Similarly, if you buy a home located on the Main Street of a town, don’t be surprised when your neighbor has customers coming and going all day. You’ve just purchased property in a commercial district.
Zoning laws go beyond the use of the property. Many South Jersey towns require homeowners to get permits to improve their land. If you want to erect a fence, install a swimming pool, add onto your home, and even place a shed in your backyard, you will need to get permission from the municipality to do it.
Failure to obtain a zoning variance or permit, as required, can be a costly endeavor. If the town officials find out, they can require you to take down your improvement. They can levy considerable fines against you. Even if they don’t catch you now, you will only be delaying the inevitable. When you go to sell your home, you will need an inspection by the town so you can obtain a Certificate of Occupancy for your buyer. When the town finds out you made improvements without permission, you may be in for a whole lot of expensive and time-consuming changes.
If you are having trouble getting the zoning variance you need to improve your property, don’t try to fight City Hall on your own. Joel R. Spivack, Esq. is a long-time zoning law attorney in Camden County. He will explain your rights and protect your interests. Contact him today for a free consultation.