Homeowners who are planning to undertake a renovation project must ensure that their plans comply with local zoning laws and ordinances. The only legal way to carry out a renovation that violates zoning codes is to obtain a variation or exemption from the rules. This can be done by filing an application with the local zoning board, which will set up a hearing on the application. Local building departments enforce building codes.
When new construction or renovation is undertaken, homeowners must submit the plans to the building department, which will decide whether to issue a permit. Inspectors employed by the building department will then verify compliance. The building department also decides whether to issue occupancy permits. In most cases, buildings are only required to meet the code requirements that were in effect when the building was designed and constructed.
This means that existing buildings do not need to be improved every time the code changes. If local zoning laws prevent your planned renovation project from moving forward, you must request a modification. When filing an application with the local zoning board, you should be prepared to explain why the variation is needed and how the proposed change will not be harmful or detrimental to the surrounding community. Neighbors may raise objections for a number of reasons, so you should be prepared to address such challenges.
Generally, exceptions are not easy to obtain; many zoning boards will grant a variation only if you can demonstrate that not going ahead with the modification would cause significant personal or financial hardship. Zoning laws may also prevent homeowners from converting a single-family home into a duplex or parking a mobile home in the front garden. Therefore, when deciding which improvements require approval from the Homeowners Association (HOA), it is important to review the architectural guidelines published by the association.