Non-Conforming Structures and Uses

Navigating regulations is crucial for property owners and developers, especially when dealing with non-conforming uses and structures. Non-conforming use refers to a previously legally permitted use that is no longer allowed due to a change in the zoning regulations. For example, a retail use that was permitted when originally established but now is not due to a “downzoning” of the area would be deemed a legal non-conforming use. Similarly, a non-conforming structure is a structure that complied with the zoning and development regulations at the time it was established, but due to a change in the regulations, it no longer complies. For example, if a structure was built in accordance with a minimum setback requirement permitted by Code, the structure becomes lawful but non-conforming when the setback regulations change making the structure no longer compliant.

Recently, one of our clients faced a situation where the local municipality asserted that the client’s structure did not comply with the existing Building Code standards. However, the structure was indisputably legal but non-conforming. These types of scenarios occur often and depending on the situation, it may be worth pushing back. 

Sometimes, municipal ordinances provide for “amortization” which refers to the gradual reduction or elimination of non-conforming status over time. In certain situations, municipalities may establish amortization periods to provide property owners with a specific time frame to comply with the current regulations or discontinue a non-conforming use.

If a property loses its non-conforming status, it may require costly modifications to comply with the current regulations. Therefore, it is important for property owners to understand the regulations as well as their options.

If you have questions about non-conforming structures and uses, we’d love to hear from you. Feel free to reach us at 224-955-7095.

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only. It is not considered legal advice on any subject matter. The information provided here does not create, and receipt of it does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. You should not act upon this information without seeking advice from an attorney licensed in your own state or country.