Zoning for a duplex in Philadelphia

8 Replies

What up BP

I’m looking at duplexes in Philly and I’ve heard there is a lot that are illegal. I see a lot that were typical Philly rowhomes that were converted into duplexes and then there are more small apartment style that look more legit. My portfolio is a mix of private and section 8 renters in single family homes so I guess I’m looking for some insight before I buy a duplex and then find out it can only be used as a single family home.

@Matthew Tierney as a starting point, check out Atlas. It's Philadelphia's online tool that has tax records, deeds, permits, zoning, etc. You can quickly tell how the property is zoned and get some initial insight as to if it's a legal two-family. I'd still let the title company confirm before purchase, but at least you have some idea of what you're getting into.

Another resource is to go to Philadelphia's City website directly. They have a really thorough Zoning Code Quick Reference Guide for 2020 (simple google search to find). When it comes to the current zoning in place for a parcel either your real estate agent can procure or you could find by going to the Philadelphia County tax records directly to see the Zoning Code.

Hope this helps; best of luck! 

@Matthew Tierney

You can lookup the zoning of the property on the city websites but not the use. And it is often the case when the use is either grandfathered or there is a variance in place. Meaning if property is zones as a single it is still can be used as a multi. 

Ordering the city certification would help some. The cert will states last known use of the property. However the cert itself states that the listed use is not guaranteed. This is verbatim what it says: 

If this property is not being used as indicated above, it is the owner's responsibility to file for a new use registration permit with the Department's Zoning unit.

See screenshot below 

In addition to the zoning, the city cert, the variance you need to have a rental license that was active withing past two years. You can check the rental license and how many units it was issues for, when it was last active by searching in your eclips account. 

Hope this helps,