When families buy their first home, it can feel like a dream come true. However, there are many steps to complete and matters to consider when purchasing a new home. From safety inspections to purchase agreements, it all can feel a little overwhelming. 

One thing that many first-time home buyers overlook is their property’s land-use restrictions. There are two primary land-use issues that home buyers should consider: zoning laws and restrictive covenants. 

A quick overview of zoning laws

While specific zoning laws can become complicated, they have a simple purpose. City planners use zoning to separate different types of property

The goal of zoning laws is to:

  • Develop cities strategically
  • Organize infrastructure
  • Regulate details of architecture
  • Determine how buyers can use property

Zoning is what differentiates commercial areas from residential areas in a city.

What do restrictive covenants include?

Restrictive covenants also provide regulations for land-use for residential and commercial properties. However, covenants often include many more specific limitations than zoning laws, such as:

  • Noise levels and ordinances
  • Building restrictions on the property
  • Property maintenance regulations

There are different types of restrictive covenants for commercial properties and residential areas. And the limitations in each covenant depend on each property. 

Regulations can look the same, but disputes are different

Zoning laws and restrictive covenants can sound very similar, especially since both strive to preserve the integrity of a property.

However, these issues operate on entirely different levels. 

The differences are most notable in property disputes. Disputes over zoning laws occur between property owners and the city. So, homeowners in Kalamazoo would have to speak with the Kalamazoo Department of Community Planning and Development in a dispute.

On the other hand, covenant disputes are similar to contract disputes. When homeowners move into a neighborhood with a restrictive covenant, they agree to the terms of that covenant. Disregarding those terms is like a breach of contract. And homeowners could face legal liabilities for breaching that agreement.

Reviewing land-use laws is critical

The details of land-use laws are different for various Michigan cities and properties. It is essential for home buyers to review all land-use laws–from zoning ordinances to covenant agreements–before purchasing a new home.

Understanding land-use laws before a purchase can help home buyers avoid future legal disputes, as well as help them protect their property rights.