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Property zoning – Buyer beware!

Property zoning issues have been a hot topic of late in the news and local papers.

The Sun Herald recently reported about a couple who bought a $1.85 million property and have been given an eviction notice by their local council because the zoning of their luxury home prohibits them from using it as a residence. They were not advised by their Solicitor/Conveyancer or Real Estate Agent that the converted Richmond warehouse was in a ‘business only zone’ and therefore they could not live in the property, despite it having 3 bedrooms.

As you can imagine this would have devastating consequences for the purchasers. Not only are they not able to live there as planned, but they may also have to reconvert the property back to a warehouse in accordance with the zoning use, if ordered by the Council.

In March this year the NSW Premier announced the Urban Activation Precincts (UAP) program. This program means that planning controls currently with your Council will be handed over to Planning NSW, i.e. the State Government, in exchange for infrastructure funding. Parts of Sutherland, Kirrawee, Loftus, Miranda and Caringbah have been nominated by the Sutherland Shire Council to become a UAP. Similar nominations will have been made by other Councils.

The result of the UAP is that a State Environmental Planning Policy and/or a Local Environmental Plan could be made for the precinct which would include changes to zoning and controls for development in the precinct.

The draft plan has implications for ALL property owners. The changes will affect your suburb and it is important you are made aware of what the potential changes to your zoning and the use of your land may be.

As well as the actual zoning of a property, there are several other matters covered in a Zoning Certificate that may affect your decision on whether you want to purchase a particular property, or may affect the value of your property when you go to sell such as:

Foreshore Building Line
The Foreshore Building Line protects foreshore from intense development. Where this line is positioned is especially important if you have any plans to redevelop in the future. Or if, for example, there is a fire and the building is destroyed you may not be able to re-build on your property in the same place and, in some cases, may not be able to rebuild on the land at all.
Bushfire
Large parts of Sydney including Sutherland Shire are bushfire prone. Building insurance premiums can be increased if your property has a bush fire notification on the Zoning Certificate and there are further requirements the Council imposes if you ever rebuild.

The lesson for all is ‘check the zoning’. In NSW, all Conveyancers and/or Solicitors must know how to read and explain the Section 149 Zoning Certificate. This should be part of your advice on the Contract given prior to exchange.

Contact our Conveyancing Team for further information.