Keeping deals on track during the pandemic requires us to stay abreast of constantly shifting limitations and restrictions on the way we do business. While municipalities are easing restrictions now for the sake of allowing businesses to reopen in some capacity, that doesn’t mean they’ll be doing so permanently. These fluctuations, along with the rocky, post-pandemic economic outlook, mean that quality due diligence is more important than ever. A Zoning Compliance Report can give you a clear picture of the compliance status of your properties and help you understand potential complications down the road. However, like everything else in the age of COVID-19, zoning compliance today requires a few extraordinary considerations:
1) Insist on a Zoning Compliance Report – While most local government offices have closed their doors, many employees are working remotely, and are still able to access their municipality’s records. The pandemic may make it tougher to access zoning compliance information, but it’s vital to identify the conditions for potential risk of loss or future enforcement action. Even if your transaction has been on hold, a zoning compliance report will identify any open code violations or other matters that may need to be addressed by property management once your transaction resumes.
2) Don’t Skip the Survey – While some onsite property assessments may be limited by access restrictions, ALTA Surveys are typically unaffected. A current ALTA Survey will support a more accurate, thorough zoning compliance report.
3) Plan for the Next Phase – As the country reopens, local municipalities will be looking at ways to minimize risk of exposure for their constituents. During this time, zoning laws may be waived in order to allow for outdoor dining and other activities. This does not, however, mean that zoning laws will be eliminated permanently. It will be important, once normal operations have resumed, to have assistance determining what additional permits or entitlements may be needed to continue the operation of these accessory uses.
4) Safeguard Your Property’s Future – A Zoning Compliance Report will help you to establish a base line to determine if the current conditions on your properties are meeting applicable code requirements. If it is not, the report will help determine whether the deficiencies or deviations from these specified development or use standards will need to be addressed immediately or if they’re a grandfathered situation. In the event they are grandfathered in, they would not need to be addressed except in the case of a catastrophic loss of property.
Many aspects of commercial real estate investment and operations have become more complicated in the midst of the pandemic, and zoning compliance is no exception. However, a qualified zoning consultant can help you navigate this changing landscape—to keep your transactions in motion and your properties compliant.