What is grandfathering? For our purposes it pertains to how a piece of land is used.
The technical term is legal nonconforming and it applies to land uses that were legally established at the time the use began but since that time a regulation, typically zoning, has changed to no longer allow for that use. So the first part of the term, “legal” refers to the fact that the use was legally established while the second part of the term “non-conforming” refers to the fact that the use does not comply with current zoning standards.
Once you remove the legal non-confirming use, you typically cannot reestablish that use and you then must bring the property up to the current standards. For example, if you have a house in a commercial zone that no longer allows for a residential use and you demolish it, you may be stuck having to build a commercial project. That may be great when the market supports it, but if it doesn’t you may be left with a property that can’t be developed or sold to someone that wants to.
Lastly, be aware that some regulations make it so that if you demolish only 50% of the legal non-conforming use you will then have to bring it up to current standards. So if you demolish 51% of a house you may get stuck.
Something to look out for on your next land purchase. Be informed, don’t get left holding the bag!
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