One of the most difficult aspects of launching or expanding your business is finding the right location that serves your needs and is actually available to lease. Even once you find something that seems perfect, you may run into a further dilemma — zoning. Not all buildings allow all kinds of businesses to operate in them, and if you're not careful when researching a property, you might end up with a lame duck of a lease on your hands. It is crucial to fully understand the zoning laws that affect your lease location to ensure that your business can freely operate and flourish there.
Even if the previous tenant's business was very similar to yours, that does not mean that you are automatically cleared for blast-off. When new zoning regulations are introduced, an existing tenant is often allowed to continue an operation that violates the new regulation. However, once that tenant terminates their lease, the new tenant is subject to the new regulations. It is possible that you might have a restaurant business and find the perfect location where another restaurant used to operate. If that location is subject to zoning regulations that restrict food service, you could be out of luck, or face extra difficulty complying with the regulations.
Similarly, it is possible that a prior tenant in the space you want to lease was only able to operate because they obtained a variance from a zoning regulation. A variance is essentially official permission to use some property in a way that does not conform to zoning laws. If the prior tenant was able to obtain a variance, it is likely that you will also be able to obtain one — but don't assume it is a given. Even if it is possible to acquire a variance, you still must jump through all the hoops necessary to actually obtain it.
Leasing a property for a business is rarely a simple matter. if you are ready to sign a lease, an experienced attorney can help you truly understand the details of your situation. With proper legal guidance, you can ensure that you are truly on the path to success, and that your rights will be protected in the process.
Source: findlaw, "Commercial Zoning," accessed Jan. 26, 2017