Zoning is an important topic for any property owner, especially landlords. Landlords should have a basic knowledge of zoning before offering property for rent, and know what to do if problems arise later on.
What is Zoning?
Zoning are local rules on the use of real property. Zoning often regulates the size, shape, and use of property in a town or city. These regulations are generally found in a town or city’s ordinances, which are usually available online.
Most towns and cities are divided into zoning districts, where only certain uses are permitted. It is common to have zoning districts for residential and commercial purposes. Towns and cities generally have a zoning map that indicates the zoning district for a particular property.
Failing to comply with a zoning regulation can have severe consequences. A town or city often has the power to issue a fine or stop-work order for a property in violation of the respective zoning ordinance.
Zoning for Landlords: Is My Property Allowed to be Rented?
For landlords, a critical issue to determine is whether the property they wish to rent is allowed for renting. Many zoning ordinances have specific requirements on where rental housing is allowed, and the minimum requirements for such rentals. This is often in addition to the state sanitary code, which applies to all residential housing in Massachusetts.
A landlord should never assume that property is suitable for renting simply because a prior owner did so in the past. It is not uncommon for zoning violations to continue for many years before finally being brought to enforcement by the town or city.
If a landlord’s property is not allowed for renting, a landlord may be able to request permission for doing so, through a variance, special permit, or some other zoning request.
Zoning for Landlords: Short-Term Rentals
Landlords need to be especially cautious about using property for short-term rentals. Short-term rentals are becoming increasingly regulated by Massachusetts towns and cities. Some municipalities require registration of these rentals, and others are banning them all together. Best for landlords to know such requirements before entering into such rentals.
If you need assistance with a zoning or landlord-tenant matter, contact me for a consultation.