Lately, I’ve been catching up on many property law topics. When I read Utah court cases on the subject, it’s amazing how many property disputes have arisen and been argued by our very own attorneys out of Wayne and Sevier Counties at the state appellate and supreme courts. We should be proud of our regional expertise because private property law is an important foundation of our democracy. My next few articles will focus on private property law issues including zoning, eminent domain, adverse possession, boundary disputes, and right of ways. Let’s start with zoning and ordinances.
Cities and counties are zoned and have ordinances, or standards, that apply to each zone. For instance, in a commercially zoned area, there may be signage ordinances. Setback distances for houses or fencing heights are also ordinances. When you get a building permit, if it's required, then you are stating you will follow the county or city ordinances.
Zoning includes various types of commercial, residential, agricultural, and other types of zones where specific types of development may occur. For example, agricultural zoning may only allow parcels greater than five acres and prohibit subdividing parcels into less than five acre lots.
Within a zone, there are permitted, conditional, and denied uses. For example, we live on the proverbial farm. We decide we want to develop the farm and build high rise condos instead of ranching. Our neighbor promptly spray paints his cows to publicly contest the idea. We go to our county to get the building permit. However, the zoning use for agriculture permits no less than five acres per residence. Conditionally, the county allows up to one residence per half acre. And the county denies multi-residential housing in agriculturally zoned property. What should we do?
Well, we cannot build our condos under the current zoning rules. Our neighbor will be relieved. We can ask the county for a conditional use permit to build multiple residences up the half acre density, but to do so will include caveats such as impact fees to provide county services to the development, building height restrictions to not damage the aesthetic view of the area, and could even require firewise preparedness to avoid wildfire tragedy.
If we are determined to build our condos, we can ask the county for a variance. Variances would allow us to challenge a zoning designation if we believe the rule creates an unreasonable hardship to the particular circumstance of the property. However, variances cannot change a prohibited use, such as multi-residential housing on agriculturally zoned property.
So, what should we do? We can ask the commissioners to change the zoning map and uses under the agriculture category. This is a political decision and with it comes the weight of policy. Alas, the commissioners agree with my neighbor as to the future vision of the county. The cows’ message worked and our idea needs revision to meet our community’s general plan and vision.
Disclaimer. As always, my column is not legal advice, instead merely insight into the law and legal profession. If you have a general question about the law or legal profession, please email me at email@example.com or call 435.610.1431.
Hello readers! A few of you have asked me to write about vacation peer-to-peer rental liabilities. Vacation peer-to-peer rentals include homes rented under companies like Airbnb and other home sharing companies. These rentals provide much needed and enjoyed supplemental income for homeowners and families. When placing your home as a vacation rental, make sure to consider the following factors.
Read your home insurance policy. Some home insurance policies somewhat cover businesses in the home but many do not. Typically, the business must make a maximum revenue to be covered. Other home insurance policies only cover the people named on the insurance policy and their guests (not paying clients) and relatives. Lastly, a home insurance policy may require the named insured to live at the home for the policy to cover the home. Consequently, during a vacation renter’s stay, a fire, plumbing flood, or other home issue could not be covered by your policy and you would have to pay, in full, for the damage.
Read the vacation rental company’s host coverage policy. The company’s policy may only cover damage during the booked period, require reports within a certain time-frame, have limited value or max coverage amounts, and require the rental be in complete compliance with the company’s policies before providing coverage. Compliance could include safety features such as smoke detectors, adequate lighting, or requiring homes comply with local building ordinances. By reading the company’s home policies and damage recovery policy, you can understand where there may be gaps between your homeowner insurance the company’s policy.
Consider your personal liability. You are liable if a guest is injured, becomes ill, or has their property damaged in your home. Your homeowner insurance and the vacation company’s insurance most likely do not cover your personal liability. Remember that quaint, creaky back stairway into your home? Your slippery walkway? That beloved cactus plant on your front porch? The specific way you must push the nob to turn off the stove? After giving you some things to fret about, the good news is that an umbrella personal liability coverage is very valuable if you are running a small business and renting out your home for short periods is a business. It can help you avoid major financial crises from an injured guest, reduce your risk, and protect your profit margins.
Celebrate your entrepreneurship and small business ownership. If you rent out your home as a vacation rental, you are running a business. The IRS distinguishes between long term renting (such as having tenants) and vacation rentals. If you are a landlord with a few rental units, you are not necessarily a small business. However, if you are running a vacation rental, you are a small business. Small businesses must file with the IRS, the state, and their city or county. Further, vacation rentals must pay federal and state taxes, including occupancy taxes. Businesses must also meet zoning requirements for their communities to retain their business license. Failure to become licensed by the federal government, state, or local government can result in preventable fines and headaches.
Everyone could use and should consider how to make a supplemental income and embrace economic opportunities. Vacation rentals are a great way to increase your income and meet the market demands of the area. Before you decide to add your residence to the vacation rental community, make sure to do your research and be comfortable with the risks you are taking.
Disclaimer: All materials in this article are prepared for general information purposes only to permit you to learn more about legal concepts. The information presented is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current, and is subject to change without notice.
Published 11/16/2017 in The Wayne & Garfield County Insider.