Familiarity with local zoning laws is important for any real estate project including residential real estate and commercial real estate projects. Zoning laws regulate the use of development of real estate which can have a significant impact on residential real estate or a commercial real estate project.

Zoning laws typically divide property into different categories and help keep property development uniform in those areas. Property may be divided into residential, commercial and industrial districts. Restrictions may also concern the types of dwellings such as single-family homes; multi-family dwellings; or townhomes. In some circumstances, mixed use areas that include commercial and residential may be zoned as well.

Additionally, requirements may be placed on the types of buildings permitted on the property; place restrictions on other buildings and building setbacks from the street; restrict the size of height of buildings; restrict the number of rooms; and control the location of utility lines. Zoning restrictions may also control the frontage area of a lot; minimum lot area; front, rear and side yards; off-street parking; and the total number of buildings permitted on a lot.

Because of the significant impact of zoning laws on real estate projects, it is necessary to understand zoning laws and the resources available if the property owner is unable to comply with the zoning laws. A variance may be possible or it may be possible to argue for a prior non-conforming use or that the regulation is an unlawful taking of property. Appeals options may also be available. Individuals engaged in the real estate process should first be aware of what zoning laws are and then how to address concerns with zoning laws as they arise.