Property Q&A in Chicago>Question Details

Lovemymama, Other/Just Looking in Chicago, IL

My mother bought a multi-family in Chicago several years ago. Currently she is trying to sell it but the buyer's lawyer called and said that the

Asked by Lovemymama, Chicago, IL Sat Mar 13, 2010

zoning was incorrect for a multifamily. It is an RS-3. The building has two units, my mom is currently living illegally in the basement. Is the building improperly zoned? I don't know what it was zoned at during her time of original purchase but she in good faith bought it as a multi family. What are the ramifications of it being improperly zoned?

Thank you.

Help the community by answering this question:



The city's zoning map was changed a few years back, and buildings that we're legally multi-units prior to any down zoning should be made legal non-conforming buildings.

If the attorney is looking for a A Certificate of Zoning Compliance, the certificate will likely cite the current zoning code and not account for legal non-conforming units. It certifies the number of residential dwelling units at the property that are legal under the Chicago Zoning Ordinance. RS3 specifically permits a two flat dwelling. You can verify permitted uses at:…

What you will want to investigate is number of dwelling units that the Department of Buildings currently have for your property. You can go to:… Send in the FOI and request the number of dwelling units. Check in with an attorney once you verify this to see what your next steps will be. It may be that your home was never legally a two unit. This is not uncommon for chicago, and an attorney, and perhaps an architect may be needed to help you understand how to best resolve the issue. Although Realtors deal with Zoning often, we are by no means experts in zoning.

Best of Luck.

Wayne Beals
Keller Williams
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 14, 2010
It's not the zoning that is improper. Unless whoever cut the building up into multiple units went through an expensive and lengthy process called a zoning variance, it is the BUILDING that is improper. I suspect this is what the buyer's atty is telling you.

Buyer's atty may also have gotten the zoning certification back from the zoning dept which indicates that the zoning dept does not recognize the building as a multi-unit.

Either way, your real estate agent needs to be marketing the property as a single family home rather than as a 2 or 3 flat.

Zoning issues are fairly complicated. I suggest you contact an attorney that specializes in real estate. An attorney I can highly recommend is Susan Malone. 312-726-2638.

Good luck!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sat Mar 13, 2010

How do you know it was incorrectly zoned? Is it in essence a single family & someone (the previous owner) told you it was a multi?

RS3 is for a single family dwelling. If it were a multi-family it would have an RM designation. I would suggest you contact an attorney for the ramifications question. Chances are there won't be any since this probably should have been addressed at title closing.

Unfortunately, this happens more often than you think. No-one checks for zoning until it's too late (usually when they want to sell). They simply take the previous owners word (who was probably told the same by the previous owner) for it.

Here is a website that may, at the very least, shed some light on zoning codes:

Hope this helps & if I can be of further assistance or help your mama sell her home please do not hesitate to call on me. Good luck!

Evelyn S. Fred
Baird & Warner
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sat Mar 13, 2010
In addition to the previous answer given, there are times you have to go back to the building department and pull the permits as to what kind building it was designed to be. If you do have the previous zoning certification, it should indicate # of units, and if not, pull the building permits (if the building isn't too old and the records are still available. Much luck to you.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Mar 13, 2010
I do not enough information to give you an answer, but if your mom bought the property after about 1998, she would have received a 'certification of zoning' at the closing which would have indicated how many legal units the city of Chicago says there are.
If you give me the address I can do some homework, but if the property is on the market, her agent should know the answer.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Mar 13, 2010
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