US: zoning

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US: zoning

When you decide to rent out your Florida villa, New York apartment or other US property to paying guests, you need to be aware of any zoning regulations in place. Essentially, zoning is a type of land control and affects how you can use your property.

Always do your research as different zoning regulations are in place in different parts of the US. No matter what stage of the letting process you're at, it's vital you are up to date with the latest zoning regulations. If in any doubt, consult a professional who knows the ins and outs of the regulations in your particular area.


What exactly is zoning?

Zoning regulations govern land usage in a particular area/zone of a town and are set by local governments. They are intended to control the development of a town in a way that is considered to be in the best interests of the general public. Communities are divided into zones, which can then only be used for certain purposes.

What are the different types of zones?

As a rule, zones fall into four categories: residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural.

How does this affect owners of holiday homes?

Most zones are subdivided further, limiting usage within that particular zone. This could include a ban on short term rentals in a residential zone, or zones for single family homes. Many residential developments do restrict rentals so as to preserve a sense of community. Ultimately, the development's own zoning regulations override those of the town.

Zoning regulations not only determine if you can rent out your property, but also the duration of any rental period. This could mean that you can rent your property, but only for periods of 30 days or more.

Owners found to be renting out their properties where such activity is prohibited risk severe penalties.

Do the same zoning regulations apply throughout the US?

No. All towns have their own zoning regulations in place. You must check with the local government if you are permitted to rent your property and, if so, the duration of any rental period. As explained above, the rules can differ between different residential developments in the same town.

Can the zoning regulations be changed?

Changes to the rules can be made through amendments. These can be sought by individual property owners or by local governments. However, any changes must be deemed to be in the best interests of the zone/community in question - this is determined through public hearings.

You can also apply for a special use permit. These make exceptions for uses of property that are not usually permitted under the zoning regulations. 'Spot zoning' can also be implemented, which rezones a small area if it is thought to be in the public's best interests.