In Chicago--I bought a 3 flat--Cert of Zoning Compliance says 3 units, Building Dept recognizes only 2 units. Will I be forced to remove my 3rd apt?

Asked by Tupper, Chicago, IL Tue Sep 6, 2011

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Wayne Beals, Agent, Chicago, IL
Tue Sep 6, 2011
Your attorney should be able to help you navigate the situation.

If the Zoning Cert. says 3 units, then you are permitted to have 3 units in the property.

If the Department of buildings has a record of only 2 dwelling units, then one of two things are likely true

a. A unit was constructed without a permit, such as a attic/basement/coach house.
b. The third unit's construction predated the records at the Department.

In either case, if it's not just a paperwork error, and the attorney cannot help correct it, it may be beneficial to seek out the help of an architect. An architect who is familiar with Chicago's various city departments can help you determine feasibility of keeping the third unit and what would be involved in getting it up to spec with Chicago Building Code.

Best of Luck

Wayne Beals
Keller Williams
312 77 BEALS
312 772-3257
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Naaman G. La…, Other Pro, Chicago, IL
Fri Sep 9, 2011
More than likely a unit was created without a building permit. You may end up having to submit plans of the entire building to verify all the exiting requirements and square footage limitations are being met. If you need an architect to draw up floor plans, feel free to contact me thru this site. Good Luck.
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Joe Schiller, Agent, Chicago, IL
Thu Sep 8, 2011
rent away.. building dept is enforcers of zoning... they do not make rule they obey sure you have you zoning certificate from the closing..
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Evelyn S. Fr…, Agent, Chicago, IL
Wed Sep 7, 2011
Hi Tupper,

Zoning trumps building department. However, if the construction of the the 3rd unit was not applied for, inspected and reported, it may be in violation of the building department rules/regs, where-by-as the building permits were not applied for an approved.

Most assuredly get your attorney involved and take John Potter's advise and check your water bill. This may come in handy for your litigation, if it gets that far.

Good luck!
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John Potter, , Cook County, IL
Tue Sep 6, 2011
The certification must be correct. Watch out for the water department. Since they might want to back bill you for the 3rd unit. Give the zoning cert o building department. They should honor that. Building department is not the zoning department. That is where they go for verification. You can also look up your zoning on the zoning map for chicago and reference the zoning ordinance to see if that zone does permit three units.
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David Hanna, Agent, Chicago, IL
Tue Sep 6, 2011
First, go and see your Alderman. How do you know the dept of Buildings is now saying you only have two legal units?

If that doesn't get it resolved, it is time to call your attorney. In the meantime, go downtown to the building department and find out how you have two very different opinions.

Make sure you get the names of everyone you speak with who gives you any information so you can reference them in future conversations.

Good luck.

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Philip Sencer, Agent, Chicago, IL
Tue Sep 6, 2011
This is a bit odd in that both departments should be on the same page. The zoining certification was created about 10 years ago to prevent buyers from making this mistake. All transactions for 2-4 flats are required to get a Cert BEFORE closing so the buyer knows how many legal units are recognized by the city. How did the building department even get involved? I would ask both departments about this and then tell your closing attorney what they say and get his advice.
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Mark Malave, Agent, Chicago, IL
Tue Sep 6, 2011
Probably. Call an attorney right away. If you have a zoning cert, then you may have legal rights. If you don't have one or don't trust the one that did the closing call Ronald Stearney, jr at 312-456-6900 or
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