I bought a cute tri-plex back in the late 90s and operated it as such for several years. There were a couple duplexes across the street so I never dreamed that zoning violations would be looming in my future. I was so wrong.
Out of the blue, I got tagged with a letter from the zoning board saying my house wasn’t in compliance with the local zoning regulaltions. That’s when I entered “Zoning Hell.” Evidently, my tri-plex had once been a single family home (so what?) and the zoning people wanted me to take it back to what it was. Needless to say, it would be very costly to do that, and my ROI (Return On Investment) would suffer terribly.
I decided to fight City Hall, as they say, and I jumped through hoop after hoop, submitting measurements, specifics, rifling through documents at my house and the court house. What a nightmare. I also appeared and spoke in front of the five-person board, pleading my case. I’d been told I didn’t have a chance in (zoning) hell, but I gave it my best shot, passionately telling them this city needed more multi-family housing like mine, accompanied by more attentive landlords like me, etc.
I won my case by a vote of 3-2. Whew! The moral of the story? Even if it looks like your potential purchase fits in with others in the area, you’d best check on it to make sure it’s zoned appropriately.
A side note … I always wondered how or why I got tagged for this violation. Much later, I found out through a neighbor that one of my tenants (who I eventually evicted) used to get drunk and run around the front yard naked. Hmmm …. maybe someone called the city and complained? Too bad they didn’t call me instead!