Understanding the Basics of Land Use and Zoning in Illinois

DuPage County real estate lawyersIf you are planning to build – be it a custom home, subdivision, or mini mall – there are some rules and regulations that you will have to follow. Known as land use and zoning ordinances, these laws restrict what can be built where. Highly complex and esoteric, these laws can make or break your land development or building project. The following information can help you understand the basics.

Why So Many Rules?

Zoning laws and land use regulations were first adopted in New York City in 1916. Since that time, they have been adopted by almost every state, city, and county. Their purpose is multifaceted, covering a wide range of social, environmental, and even appearance issues, including:

  • The preservation of historical sites and natural resources,
  • Ensuring the safety and well-being of the community,
  • Maintaining aesthetic appearances throughout certain areas of the community,
  • Preservation of property values,
  • Overall design of the city/state/community,
  • Regulation of traffic,
  • Waste water management, and
  • Public convenience.

What You Need to Know About Zoning Ordinances

Most municipalities (cities, counties, etc.) are divided into residential, commercial, and industrial districts (otherwise known as zones). Generally, these are fairly distinct and separate from one another. For example, it is unlikely that you would find a power plant in a residential zone. Within these different zones, there may be additional restrictions and/or regulations. For example, in a residential district, a house may be limited in the number of stories it can have, or in the type of structures that can be added in or near the home (sheds, fences, etc.). In a business district, there may be restrictions regarding setbacks from the street, maximum height of the building, and minimum cost. Features of historical locations might need to be preserved, and there may even be ordinances that govern what kind of business can be built (i.e. restrictions that prohibit the sale of alcohol within an establishment).

What You Need to Know About Land Use Regulations

Land use is somewhat different than zoning ordinances because it focuses more on guiding future development, rather than the regulation of current structures. Zoning laws still apply in this situation, but the goal is to ensure that new and added structures (including homes, townhomes, businesses, subdivisions, streets, etc.) follow the municipality's overall master plan. These rules can apply, even outside of a city since even outlying communities can affect the city itself.

Restrictions Impose a Need for Due Diligence

Every person who wishes to build, modify, improve, or even transfer the use of a business or structure should practice due diligence before purchasing a parcel of land, property, or a home to prevent zoning and land use conflicts. Further, it is a wise decision to seek the assistance of a skilled real estate attorney when vetting of a land or building project. Able to help you decipher zoning laws and understand how they might affect your project, they can increase the chances that your project will be a success.

For a name and experience that you can trust, turn to Stock, Carlson & Duff LLC. Our DuPage County real estate lawyers have been helping builders, land developers, land owners, and prospective homeowners with zoning and land use issues for more than 35 years. We can help you save time, energy, and money so you can focus on the future and completion of your project. Call us at 630-665-2500 and schedule your consultation to get started today.





Due Diligence when Purchasing Commercial Real Estate

Illinois purchasing commercial real estate, DuPage County Real Estate AttorneyOne of the most exciting steps a small business owner can take is purchasing a piece of commercial property in order to expand his or her business. Whether the purchase is because the business is expanding and needs a bigger facility or the business is generating more than enough income to go from renting commercial space to owning it, the excitement can be akin to a person purchasing their first home. However, it is critical for any business owner to do due diligence on any commercial property they are considering buying.

The first step a potential buyer should take is to hire a title company to ensure the property has a clean title. A title company search can reveal actual owners, any liens, any covenants, any easements, or other restrictions which could hinder plans for the property.

It is also important to hire an independent company to perform a survey of the property. Establishing boundary lines, right-of-way easement, and access roads is a critical step in due diligence.

An owner of a property is legally responsible for any cleanup costs of all environmental contamination, even if that contamination was caused by a previous owner. Obtaining an environmental condition report will reveal whether or not the property has any lead-based paint, mold, underground storage tanks, or any other factors which could cause contamination.

Depending on what the property is currently being used for, or what the buyer's plans are, checking with the municipality to make sure that all plans meet its zoning laws is another important step. It may even be prudent to consider having third-party prepared zoning report done.

Other crucial factors included when performing due diligence on a potential piece of real estate are investigating any current leases which may be in place, as well as certificate of occupancies. Also, make sure to check current tax certificates of the property. The property must additionally be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and any other state or municipal accessibility codes.

Purchasing commercial property—or any kind of property—can sometimes feel overwhelming when trying to ensure that you are covering all the bases in due diligence of the property. That is where an experienced DuPage County real estate attorney can help. Call Stock, Carlson & Duff LLC at 630-665-2500 today.




Tips for Purchasing Your First Home

purchasing your first home, DuPage County Real Estate AttorneyOne of the most exciting experiences for a person or for a couple is the purchase of a first home. After years of working hard and saving towards that down payment, it can feel very rewarding to actually sign on the dotted line and become a homeowner. However, the process is not without the occasional hiccup—and headaches. Therefore, following a few tips can help the purchase go smoother.

What is Your Credit Score?

One of the first steps a potential home buyer should take is to check his or her credit. Financial institutions put a heavy weight on a person's credit score when it comes to deciding how much—or if—they will approve a mortgage.

To begin, request a copy of your credit report from the three major credit reporting agencies and look over these reports carefully. Examine your credit reports for any errors. Look for any unpaid accounts or accounts sent to collections. It is not uncommon for a person to apply for a mortgage and then discover that they have an unpaid credit card or utility bill from years ago. You may have forgotten the debt, but the mortgage company will look at those types of entries unfavorably.

If you do find unpaid debt, then make sure you pay it off immediately. Additionally, keep a record to show the bank or mortgage company that you made the payment.

Track Your Cash Flow

Purchasing a home and all the extras—both planned and unplanned—is expensive. It is important to know where the money you earn every month is going to and how much you should have left over at the end of the month. Keep track of exactly where and what you are spending it on.

For potential home buyers who are self-employed or contract employees, keep in mind that lenders will want to see at least two years' worth of concrete earnings before they will consider approving a mortgage.

Have Required Documentation Ready

When you apply for a mortgage, the majority of lending institutions will want to see your two most recent paycheck stubs, the last two months of all your bank statements (including blank pages), past two years' income tax returns, as well as any and all W-2 forms.

Figure Out How Much You Can Afford

It is critical to calculate what your debt-to-income ratio is in order to see just how much you can afford for a mortgage and how much of a down payment you will need to put on the home you choose. Financial advisors say a person should be spending no more than 28 percent of their gross monthly income towards housing expenses.

Once you find your home and qualify for the mortgage, there are still multiple legal issues which may need to be addressed during the home buying process. That is why it is important to have an experienced DuPage County real estate attorney representing you though this process. Call us today to schedule your appointment.