Zoning Ordinances – What you Should Know

Hello everyone,

Here’s an “issue” encountered by a friend / client who didn’t check ( due diligence ) on the zoning of the property their company recently bought through a broker.  This was supposedly for an office warehouse facility for their expansion in a centrally located site in Metro Manila, however, after completing the plans for their structure and now getting permits to build the structure, they were informed that such a structure isn’t allowed !

Take note that the most important agency as per our experience is the Urban Development Department ( Zoning Administration Division ), then Barangay and finally the Assessor’s Office where the property is located have the say as to what the zoning is and what needs to be done to reclassify the zoning, if possible.  Since the client was a friend, he seeked our assistance and we got him the reclassification fortunately but took a lot of effort to accomplish the task.   CAVEAT !

Below is an article on zoning that you may find useful :

Zoning Ordinances and Regulations

Zoning ordinances and regulations are laws setting limits on how you can use your property. Cities, counties, townships and other local governments use zoning laws to guide development and shape the community, usually under an overall zoning plan.

Why Zoning Is Important

Zoning laws come into play on every single real estate development, big or small. So if you’re thinking about buying property or making improvements to property you own, know how zoning laws fit into your plan.

Zoning Conflicts, Property Values and Plans

Zoning uses often conflict with one another. For example, a commercial building usually can’t be built on property zoned for residential use. Or your plans for a dream house in the country may clash with agricultural zoning.

These zoning issues may affect a property’s value, for both buyers and sellers. It all depends on who wants the property and the plans they have for it.

Zoning Changes Aren’t Easy

Getting the zoning changed on property can be a very difficult process. First there’s notice to the public, then hearings, ending with a local board or commission granting a zoning variance allowing your change.

You can find out how property is zoned by calling your local planning department. They can also explain the zoning variance process in your area.   The City Engineer’s Officecan help review your land use plans, and your options for handling zoning issues.

Common Zoning Provisions

Use Requirements and Restrictions

Use requirements refer to how property can be used. Typical zoning categories include:

  • Residential
  • Commercial
  • Industrial
  • Agricultural
  • Recreational

These categories usually break down into further subcategories. For example, residential zoning has subcategories for single-family and multiple-family homes.

Zoning laws set out many use restrictions, such as:

  • Building height and overall size
  • Density, or how close buildings are to one another
  • What part of the area of a building lot may contain structures
  • What specific kinds of facilities are included with certain kinds of uses

For example, there are usually zoning limits on the number of stories and total height of a building, minimum parking areas for a commercial site and requirements for garages and driveways for a home.

Zoning Ordinance Bulk Requirements

The bulk requirements of a zoning ordinance cover:

  • Building height and size restrictions
  • A building’s square footage
  • The percentage of area a building covers on a lot
  • Minimum lot size

The setback and side-yard requirements control the distance between a building and the front, back and side property lines.


Land is divided up into legal parcels. In most places, there’s a zoning process to follow if you want to split your land into smaller parcels or create a subdivision.

There are usually simplified procedures if you want to divide your property into only two to four parcels. These are sometimes called lot splits.

The process is more complex for a major subdivision. A developer must prepare a site plan or subdivision map, showing details for the planned property use.

Subdivision laws may mandate:

  • Lot size
  • Street specifications
  • Utility requirements

In some states, local governments have the power to require developers to pay for infrastructure for their projects. Costs include new utilities, roads and schools.

By the time a subdivision is approved, the developer has been through many public hearings and responded to those who object to its plan.

Questions worth knowing :

  • What are the limits on zoning laws, and what are my rights as a property owner?
  • In a property sale, who is responsible for confirming zoning status, buyer or seller?
  • If there’s a zoning law change and my current land use is grandfathered in, does the exception apply to someone who buys my land?
  • Should the Homeowner’s Association on a Subdivision or the Local Government zoning be followed with regards to development of a property ?

Please take note that knowing the zoning on the property you’re buying is part of “‘DUE DILIGENCE” .  Make sure that the property you’re buying will be used for the purpose you’re buying it for.

A “Good Deal” doesn’t necessarily mean it applies to you unless you’ve  done your homework !

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Finally, should you have a property for SALE or LEASE, let me know if our office could be of assistance.

Thank you.

Robert G. Sarmiento Properties
Professional Affiliation :
Philippine Association of Real Estate Brokers
Member, City of Taguig Real Estate Board 2016
Real Estate Broker’s Association of the Philippines 2000-2015
President, Greenhills Chapter 2008, 2009
Philippine Association of Real Estate Brokers
San Juan Mandaluyong Chapter 1998, 1999
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