CMX-1 zoning question

3 Replies

I am looking at an off-market duplex zoned cmx-1 (commercial mixed use).

It is currently set up as a duplex, but with both units rented as residential apartments.

Is this legal?

If I buy it will I be able to get rental licenses for both units without having to go through the zoning variance process?

This is such a grey area and everyone I ask says, "oh, don't worry about it. This is Philly" which is kind of nerve racking. For this reason I've only been looking at multifamilies with RM1 zoning. 

Below I've included a link to the Philadelphia Zoning Quick Reference Guide:

http://www.phila.gov/CityPlanning/projectreviews/P...

In the CMX section you'll see the minimum square footage requirements that are needed to make a unit legal. However, they all have the first floor of the property as commercial. As for the rental license, I've looked up several Landlord-Tenant case dockets in the municipal courts and all you do is sign an affidavit of how many units you're renting so I've seen properties with the aforementioned zoning having been issued licenses for each unit. Also, if you are looking to finance the property it can't be done with Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac conventional terms. Regardless of its use, you'd have to finance under commercial terms. 

If you want to dig deeper, you can also look up all archived documents that pertain to zoning to see if a certain use has been approved or not here:

http://www.phila.gov/zoningarchive/

CMX-1 is the zoning the property is located in, but that zoning only dictates the different uses buildings are allowed to be by right. An existing duplex will fall under a by-right use in CMX-1 (in almost all circumstances, especially if bordered by other residential use).

The first thing I would do is go to http://property.phila.gov/ and look up the address and see its permit history (It may not have one. Don't be alarmed by that). 

If it doesn't have a "use permit" as a duplex, you'll need to obtain one. Permits are granted by the office of Licenses and Inspections (L&I). You can obtain one by going to the lower concourse of the Municipal Services Building. You will have to fill out an application (here) and bring a check with you (the cost should be $125, but with Philly you never know). 

Because the permit is by-right and is for an existing building, you won't need plans and you'll receive the permit the same day as you apply. 

How do I know this? I work as an architect and expedite permits for my clients. I'm down at L&I at least twice a month dropping of dozens of plan sets. Let me know if you have any questions. 

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