Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 13 of 13

Thread: Convert 2 family to 3 family zoning?

  1. #1

    Convert 2 family to 3 family zoning?

    Hello all. The internet is a wonderful thing isn't it?

    I need as much information as anyone can give. Here's the long story shortened as best I can:

    My girlfriend owns a 2-family house that she bought from her late father. He was a Do-It-Yourself-er and didn't like the interference of others(especially towns, bldg inspectors, etc). He almost finished the 3rd floor, but the house is still considered a "2-family." As far as laws and safety regarding CONSTRUCTION are concerned, everything is kosher.

    Can we finish the 3rd floor, get a tenant, and make it a 3-family on our own, or do we HAVE to get zoning approval from our town? Can it be as simple as finding out what type of zone our house is in (probably "residential" but could also be "commercial," due to nearby businesses) and then finding out what types of buildings are allowed there?

    Thanks to anyone who can help!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Appleton, Wisconsin
    Posts
    4,185
    Here in Appleton, WI, residential zoning is several different classes of single-family (R-1A, B, C, etc), duplexes (R-2) and 3 or more units, called 'multi-family' (R-3).

    Now, I don't know how your muni in Massachusetts parses things, but from your description I would gather that your structure in question is a typical Massachusetts triple-decker and its neighborhood would likely come with at least a duplex zoning. I would definitely check at city hall to make sure. Also, many/most states and localities require more stringent inspections and other related things when the buildings get into three or more units than they do with one or two units.

    Good luck.

    Mike

  3. #3
    Thanks for your input Mike!

  4. #4
    You will likely need to re-apply for 3 family, as there would be more parking requirements. Some places have 2 spaces/unit, others 1.5 spaces. Nonetheless, the review would ensure that you have enough parking to accomodate the additional tenants and not cause an on-street parking issue for adjacent property owners.
    Another thing to consider, some places have residential parking permits, of which, certain types of housing are allowed only a limited amount of. Something to check into...
    Who's gonna re-invent the wheel today?

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Ocean to the east, land to the west
    Posts
    1,114

    Depends!

    The answer really depends on what the zoing says in your town and how strict it is. In most places around Boston going from a 2 to a 3 in most zones will need some sort of relief.

    There may also be some issues with the work having been done without permits but if it was done a long time ago and generally meets code the town may let that slide.

    Quote Originally posted by jonheebs View post
    Hello all. The internet is a wonderful thing isn't it?

    I need as much information as anyone can give. Here's the long story shortened as best I can:

    My girlfriend owns a 2-family house that she bought from her late father. He was a Do-It-Yourself-er and didn't like the interference of others(especially towns, bldg inspectors, etc). He almost finished the 3rd floor, but the house is still considered a "2-family." As far as laws and safety regarding CONSTRUCTION are concerned, everything is kosher.

    Can we finish the 3rd floor, get a tenant, and make it a 3-family on our own, or do we HAVE to get zoning approval from our town? Can it be as simple as finding out what type of zone our house is in (probably "residential" but could also be "commercial," due to nearby businesses) and then finding out what types of buildings are allowed there?

    Thanks to anyone who can help!

  6. #6
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Machesney Park, IL
    Posts
    1,437
    I've seen some ordinances where 2- and 3-family are permitted in the same zoning district. So, you may be fine. Just check with your local zoning department and see what they say. But be prepared for them to say that the property is completely screwed up and non-conforming, just so you are mentally prepared, and not thrown into a rage, if that is the case.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Upper left edge
    Posts
    4,255
    I concur with "depends." In some places a three-family dwelling is considered an apartment building and may not be allowed in a single-family zone. In my Oregon town, once you get past a duplex, all sorts of new requirements kick in, such as "recreational area" specific landscaping requirements, storage space, etc.

    The building and fire codes may treat triplexes differently, too. This is not something to wink at since killing people by knowingly violating these codes is frowned upon by juries. A lot of those pesky bureaucratic rules are there as a result of tragic experience.

    Your insurance company may have something to say as well.

  8. #8
    I don't see how you can say it depends.... wouldn't this require a building permit, and wouldn't it then get a zoning review? how can you add habitable space without a building permit? what jurisdiction permits this?

    zoning is there to ensure fairness to all. her father didn't care what anyone else had to say, but that doesn't mean that his development doesn't have an effect on the community.

    Quote Originally posted by jonheebs View post
    Hello all. The internet is a wonderful thing isn't it?

    I need as much information as anyone can give. Here's the long story shortened as best I can:

    My girlfriend owns a 2-family house that she bought from her late father. He was a Do-It-Yourself-er and didn't like the interference of others(especially towns, bldg inspectors, etc). He almost finished the 3rd floor, but the house is still considered a "2-family." As far as laws and safety regarding CONSTRUCTION are concerned, everything is kosher.

    Can we finish the 3rd floor, get a tenant, and make it a 3-family on our own, or do we HAVE to get zoning approval from our town? Can it be as simple as finding out what type of zone our house is in (probably "residential" but could also be "commercial," due to nearby businesses) and then finding out what types of buildings are allowed there?

    Thanks to anyone who can help!

  9. #9
    The reason others have said "it depends" is because the OP didn't know whether the zoning district permits multi-family at the density proposed.

    What I am not sure about is why the OP is sure construction is *kosher* without the benefit of inspections. Unless an inspection was made prior to the wallboard going up, how would anyone certify that the wiring, plumbing and any structural work meet code?

    As to zoning, I would meet with the local planners and 'fess up. Do what needs to be done to get it approved. There are important reasons to do so: If it's not up to code and somebody dies, there'll be prison time to serve; if they want to sell in the future, they want to be able to warrant that the dwelling met all applicable codes at the time of remodeling, otherwise they could only market it as *an illegal tri-plex*; if the property is (or ever will be) mortgaged, it's information the bank has a right to know and they do not tend to have a sense of humor if fols are not forthright; and, finally, the neighbors will discover that there is a third apartment and can file a complaint with zoning if it turns out not to be permitted in the base zoning district. My Board/ Commission tends to be more understanding when someone is honest with us, as opposed to the opposite.

    Good luck!
    Je suis Charlie

  10. #10

    Thanks.

    Thanks to everyone for their input.

    Basically it comes down to this: Her father was an electrician by day, and a landlord/superintendent for 4 properties on the nights and weekends. Since he decided not to get the town zoning board involved, and didn't get the proper permits before beginning the 3rd floor, we just don't want to get fined up the wazoo on his part.

    We personally WANT to get the board involved and make sure we're following law. I guess we just have to bite the bullet and hope that they take it easy on us when we reveal that all this construction was done without a permit! We're innocent!

  11. #11
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Appleton, Wisconsin
    Posts
    4,185
    Quote Originally posted by jonheebs View post
    Thanks to everyone for their input.

    Basically it comes down to this: Her father was an electrician by day, and a landlord/superintendent for 4 properties on the nights and weekends. Since he decided not to get the town zoning board involved, and didn't get the proper permits before beginning the 3rd floor, we just don't want to get fined up the wazoo on his part.

    We personally WANT to get the board involved and make sure we're following law. I guess we just have to bite the bullet and hope that they take it easy on us when we reveal that all this construction was done without a permit! We're innocent!
    Well, seeing as the violations were not the fault of the current owner (in fact the 'guilty' party is no longer alive), I would suspect that the board will go easy with you. Remember that the USA does have a Constitutional tradition of not holding people criminally responsible for the crimes of their ancestors. Talk frankly with them in a friendly manner and have the inspectors give everything a good going over, they'll most likely point out any problems in a professional manner and work with you to get it all up and running right.

    Mike

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Dec 2001
    Location
    America's Dairyland
    Posts
    73
    About building code stuff . . .
    You'll only be able to use the 3rd floor as living space if everything does check out - including fire code requirements, like adequate ingress/egress, not just building code requirements. I'd venture to guess, even if they "go easy on you" as others have suggested, that you'll be required to pay permit fees for work that has been completed, and there is a chance that you'll have to pay double/triple/quadruple (depending on your community's policy) because the folks doing the work didn't get the permits in the first place.

    About zoning stuff . . .
    In case it isn't already clear, be aware that there is a possibility that you'll only be able to use the house as a 2-unit when you are done. Even if the 3rd floor meets all building and fire code requirements, if 3-unit buildings aren't allowed in that zoning district, you will probably have to utilize the 3rd floor as part of the 2nd floor living space, not as a separate unit unless your community is generous with variances. If you aren't allowed to have a 3-unit building you may be required to remove anything that's been added to the 3rd floor that would distinguish it as a separate dwelling unit (such as a kitchen).

    You asked about finding out whether 3-unit buildings are allowed in the zoning district. That's a good starting point, and if they are allowed find out under what circumstances (lot size minimums, parking requirements, conditional use permit, etc). This will give you a better sense of what's ahead.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
    Registered
    May 2005
    Location
    Metro Detroit
    Posts
    6,420
    You should probably just check with the local government, as every municipality has different requirements.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Replies: 17
    Last post: 24 Apr 2008, 8:54 AM
  2. Replies: 4
    Last post: 11 Dec 2006, 2:57 PM
  3. Replies: 1
    Last post: 18 Sep 2006, 1:05 PM
  4. Replies: 15
    Last post: 08 Feb 2006, 1:23 PM
  5. Replies: 1
    Last post: 04 Jul 2001, 8:41 AM