Commercial land in Florida can have limitations on the type of use that can be made of the property. Once a commercial use has begun there are limitations on how the property is used. The former is called zoning while the latter is called a code violation. In real estate, both terms apply to a misuse of property. If there are outstanding building or property violations, it can prevent the owner from selling or refinancing the property. It can also prevent the owner from obtaining documents pertaining to that property.
Since land use regulations govern the way that land can be used in a certain area, and can determine where economic activity takes place and where and how communities develop, it should come as no surprise that the causes, consequences and control of land use is of importance to many Floridians. Many commercial land use violations involve the threat of increased noise, traffic or pollution.
Of course, land use issues are not confined to suburban settings. Rural issues, such as agricultural production, afforestation, decertification of agricultural lands, loss of wetlands, etc., are also seen as significant land-use concerns.
These laws are usually maintained by local governments and municipal codes which almost always have differing characteristics with regards to land use. While the federal government does not directly regulate the zoning and land use of property, it can sometimes indirectly influence how land use is regulated by how it distributes money for state and local projects.
Regulations can address such issues like what types of buildings can be built in that area, how tall structures can be, environmental concerns, and various provisions regarding boundaries for plots of land, among other things.
While many times, land use laws are put into the same category as Code violations, the two quite different in nature.
Code enforcement refers to the regulation of activities within a given area.
Land use refers more to the types of buildings that can be built on the land and how that plot of land can be used. Other land-use violations may include unauthorized harvesting of natural resources, unauthorized polluting, or an interference with a person’s access to public areas.
For instance, a code violation could involve a business selling products out of their house in a residential neighborhood. A land-use violation could involve that same business dumping polluted waste in their back yard.
Legal penalties for land use violations generally involve a court-order injunction. This injunction may require the business to fix the violation or clean up the area if there is a toxic spill or a polluted area, etc. Sometimes the injunction may order the business to cease operations until the violation is rectified. The legal penalties may also include damages paid to parties that have suffered losses due to the violation.
In addition, Florida cities and counties have the power to impose daily fines for violations, which can range up to $500 per day. As fines stack up, the city or county can record a lien against the property which becomes a cloud on the title and may prevent the property from being sold.
While many land-use violations seem to be obvious, others are not. Commercial land use law has evolved into a complex system that is often subjective and unpredictable. Sometimes, the violation in question is not supported by law or evidence, and there are instruments to challenge the finding of the violation, including appealing the decision to the Circuit Court.
I’m Rob Robinson. As a 5th generation, Floridian and have been practicing law in Florida for over 30 years. For over two decades, I have assisted clients with the local government land-use code enforcement process in Southwest Florida, and I’m confident I can do the same for you. My goal is to negotiate an early resolution and, if necessary, lead a challenge to the code enforcement action in court.
If you need legal help, please don’t hesitate to contact my law office. Oftentimes, having an experienced attorney assist you early on in the process can save you time, headaches, and money in the long run. I will always work hard to protect your entitlements and property rights.