Residential and Commercial Zoning

Whether you are starting a new venture or want to transfer your existing business to a new location, it is crucial to understand the ins and outs of zoning, including its process and costs. Throughout your research, you might be interested to know: Can a residential property be used for commercial purposes? You’re not alone if you’ve asked this question while navigating the next steps for your business. With that said, let’s explore what you need to know about rezoning residential property to commercial.

What is Zoning?

Municipalities create zoning laws that regulate how to use plots of land. These uses fall under categories including: 

  • Residential (where you live)
  • Commercial (retail businesses and professional offices)
  • Industrial (manufacturing or factory operations)
  • Agricultural (crops, livestock, and other rural land use)

Zoning regulations also determine what structures are allowed in the area, where they can exist on the land, height restrictions, and parking requirements.

The purpose of zoning laws ultimately serves the interests of the community. For example, they prevent businesses from building structures in residential neighbourhoods where they may cause disturbances.

Why is Rezoning Necessary?

In short, anyone doing commercial business on residential property may be violating zoning by-laws. Penalties can include fines, court proceedings, or even imprisonment, depending on the activities and severity of the breach. Owners in question may need to sell their properties, and this infringement could impact their chances of getting permits in the future.

Can Residential Property Be Used for Commercial?

Yes, but this will require rezoning, which can be a long, complicated, and expensive process, depending on the nature of your request. For example, major zoning amendments cost $22,472, while minor requests cost $11,907 plus additional fees. 

In Ottawa, you must apply for a Zoning By-law Amendment before using your residential property for commercial purposes. Prior to starting your application, the city advises that you have a pre-application consultation with staff to discuss your proposal and ensure you have accurate information and are aware of all considerations.

Rezoning requires public consultation with all property owners within 120 metres of the site. This is necessary to protect the needs of the surrounding community. For example, suppose you want to operate commercially in a residential zone. In that case, you’ll have to consider if this will adversely impact others in the area due to increased traffic, pollution, or noise.

Ultimately, rezoning is a legal matter. While many approvals come with no issues, problems can arise. Consider speaking with an attorney or real estate specialist for advice. In some cases, the price of zoning amendments and investments to meet code and accessibility requirements may not be the most cost-effective, and you may be better off buying or renting commercial real estate.

Can a Commercial Property be Changed for Residential Use?

Depending on current zoning and housing laws, commercial properties can be changed for residential use. You apply with the same rezoning process described above, and approval is often contingent on the property’s location. If the building is in a mixed-use zoning area, the process will likely be smoother than in a commercial-only area. You will also need to ensure that the property is up to code and perform any necessary renovations for living amenities like kitchen spaces and bathrooms.
At Zinati Realty, our experts can assist you with your commercial business plans. We have extensive knowledge about land use and zoning in the Ottawa area and can recommend the most cost-effective investment decisions. Reach out to us today to learn more.

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