Bought an illegal 2-family unknowingly

4 Replies

I bought a forclosure which was listed as a 2 family. The house is in a nice residential neighborhood, but in a town which has a large rental market on the opposite side of town.It has all the aspects of a 2 family: 2 electric meters, 2 separate entrances, 2 house numbers/mailboxes.There is a kitchen, multiple bedrooms and bathrooms in each unit. The units are separated by a wall, although there is a door which can be opened (imagine a hotel room) which we will keep locked.  This passageway is what concerned the inspector. I'll seal the opening if need be. I'm not concerned with the apartments not being separate (as they fit the description of a multi-family), I'm more concerned of the zoning laws in that part of town.

We are converting from oil to natural gas and had an inspector come in to sign off on the install of the gas heaters in order to get 2 meters from the gas company to have heat/hot water. The inspector won't sign off on permit and is saying it is an in-law suite and not a rentable 2 family. Zoning is coming out to look at the house. I'm waiting to hear his disposition and very concerned right now. I'll reach out to my attorney if they say it can't be rented.

I'm getting ahead of myself here, but has anyone else bought a (forclosure) house listed as a deeded multi but can not rent it due to zoning?

@Justin Swann Do you know how long has the property been vacant?  Zoning regulations in some cities will allow a property to continue on at it's current status as long as it hasn't been vacant for a certain amount of time (i.e. 6 months, 12 months, etc).

Property was vacated in October 2017 and we purchased it in March of 2018, so about 5months. Although, we currently do not live there as it still has no heat/hot water due to this permit issue!

@Justin Swann has zoning given you any indication on what their requirements are? 

I would go to their office and very politely find out as much information as possible. It seems to me some of this would be grandfathered in (for a certain time period) in a majority of markets. I certainly would not mention any type of legal action until you find out a lot more about the situation.

It's been my experience that those in bureaucratic positions do not take kindly to threats.

Don’t stress out too much yet. It sounds like since it’s been used as a 2 family ‘forever’ and is electric metered as such, it’s not like you are changing the use.

Some building/zoning departments will work with you to do what’s right and just, so you may not have any issue. It also sounds like you’re not in a city, so you have that going for you too.

see what the zoning person has to say. There will probably be some paperwork and letters and such, but hopefully something that is easily resolved.