Can you live in a non-residential building?

Non-residential buildings have that title for a purpose; they’re meant for other purposes apart from living in. There are varieties of purposes ranging from commercial to industrial. So, can you live in a non-residential building?

No, you legally can’t live in a non-residential building. While you might be able to live there illegally, this could attract fines, eviction, or losing your insurance coverage if you’re caught. The best thing to do is file a rezoning application with your local authority and hope it’s approved.

When applying, you should research all the applicable laws in advance and try talking to a local real estate attorney or agent to guide you. Here, we discuss whether you can live in a non-residential building and what you need to know about real estate zoning.

Real Estate Zoning

Zoning determines what the land and building in a particular community will serve. It’s how the government divides parcels of land into different zones, with each zone having its rules and regulations on the kind of development that can happen there. It helps the community manage the type, shape, and location of buildings within the area and the kind of activities in those buildings. It also prevents any new development from interfering with the neighborhood’s character. Through zoning, lands are designated for residential, agricultural, industrial, commercial, rural, historic, and mixed-use purposes.

Zoning is what makes it impossible to live in a non-residential building. The zoning designation of a property determines its usage, so you can’t simply start manufacturing goods in your residential apartment or living in a commercial building. Thus, while it might be possible to live in non-residential buildings, the major question is whether living in them would be legal. Unless it gets an official residential status, living in a non-residential building would be illegal even if you can convert it into a residential apartment by fitting it with the fixtures you need for a residence.

How To Live Legally in A Non-Residential Building

If you wish to convert a non-residential building into something you can live in, you’ll have to rezone it for mixed-use or residential purposes. Getting a non-residential building rezoned is possible theoretically. But it’s not easy, and the process can be complex. This is because zoning exists to protect property values and residents and ensure uniformity in the purpose of buildings in an area. So, rezoning your property may affect that balance, leading to authorities being unwilling to rezone.

But the chances are higher in some cases. For instance, when the building is on the fringes of two different zones. Also, when there’s a clear need to have a mixed-use or residential space in the non-residential areas, the local authorities would be more open to zoning. You can also look at the record of the local authority when it comes to granting approvals for rezoning applications in the area where you’re applying.

Who is in Charge of Zoning?

Usually, the local municipal council is responsible for zoning, although there could be differences in the application process. You’ll find several properties zoned for mixed-use in some communities, making it easy to convert what might not be a residential building. But if that’s not the case, you’ll have to apply for the zoning permits. The local policy will determine whether a zoning passport would be approved, so it might be great to first speak to the local authorities and establish the possibility before going ahead to embark on any conversion project that will convert a non-residential building into a residence.

What to Consider When Seeking to Rezone Property

If you’re planning to rezone a property so it can serve residential purposes, here are things you should do.

1.  Research On Applicable Laws and Standards

Even if a property can be zoned for residential living or may serve a mixed purpose, there’s still a need to do further research. This is because there could be extra restrictions on the property, perhaps regarding what can be done on it. Beyond zoning law, the community could also restrict what a person can do with the building. For example, subdividing the building, changing its external appearance, creating multiple residential units from a non-residential space, changing the lot size, etc., may require specific approvals.

2.  Talk To a Local Real Estate Agent or Attorney

You could also try to speak with a real estate agent familiar with the zoning codes and know about conversion and mixed-used properties. Such agents can guide you on whether you can convert property or not. If you’ve just started looking, they can also find properties that can serve more than one purpose. It might also help to contact a real estate attorney to guide you through the process.

Penalties for Living in a Non-residential Building

Living in a non-residential building may attract serious fines and even legal repercussions. If you’re a tenant, it could lead to eviction. As the building owner, the local authorities may impose heavy fines on you for disregarding the zoning rules. Beyond that, living in a non-residential building also affects the property’s insurance. The insurance company might refuse to cover the building if they discover this, especially if the damage to the building is due to use for illegal purposes. Finally, if someone should get injured in the budling, you could also face criminal and civil charges as the owner.

Is It Advisable to Live In A Non-Residential Apartment?

A person shouldn’t live in a non-residential building without rezoning it and getting the right approval. It’s not advisable due to the risks involved and the legal and financial implications of being caught. But if you still want to do it, you would need to be extra careful. This might mean not having any pets or children. Make sure you spend your after-hours as quietly as possible and avoid disturbing other businesses in the space. Of course, you also have to consider whether it’s safe. For example, why it might be possible to live in a commercial building, it’ll be more difficult in an industrial building due to the pollution and noise. So, it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it.

In Conclusion

It’s not legal to live in a non-residential building, but it can be possible in some cases. In those cases, you’ll have to make sure not to be a nuisance which could lead to complaints. Even then, it’s best to live by the law.