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Real Estate Law: Florida Land Development & Regulations

real estate law

From a commercial or residential perspective, real estate law in Florida can be tricky to understand. Florida requires that any development plans be consistent with local, regional, and state laws. To get clearance to develop a piece of land, you need to come up with a comprehensive plan that addresses all the regulatory restrictions in your area.

The Ins and Outs of Zoning

The three main zoning types are industrial, residential, and commercial.

Municipal zones dictate what types of buildings are allowed where. For instance, you likely won’t see a clothing boutique sandwiched between two houses on a residential row. Some zones allow for mixed use developments, such as a building with a business on the bottom floor and apartments on the higher floors. Each of these zoning types of limits what you can do with the property. Depending on the zone, you will have to conform your structure to regulations including building height, distance set back from the road, and the size and use of the land, among other specifications.


Real estate law says that you can’t build a skyscraper in a small commercial area for instance, but there are some exceptions to the normal zoning rules. These are called variances. If developers want to use a land area other than what it is zoned for, they may request a variance. They usually must prove that the current parcel size or zoning limitations create hardship.

For example, if you are constructing a new office building for a certain number of employees, you may need a certain number of floors to accommodate all the employees. If you anticipate that building a big enough structure would exceed the height limit for commercial zones, you may request an exception to the zoning law to build an additional floor. In Florida, a municipal zoning board will decide to grant the variance or not. They will solicit feedback from nearby property owners. If your proposed variance would drastically change the use and look of your lot compared to nearby lots, the board likely will not grant the variance.


Whether you want to make a change to an existing structure or build a completely new one, Florida regulations require permits. You can apply for a general building permit to build. Depending on the scope of the project, you may need to file for a narrow permit, such as electrical, roofing, or plumbing. General maintenance not exceeding a certain dollar amount does not require a permit.

Applying for Permits

Your contractors will often know what kind of permit to file for and will apply for the permit themselves, but with the complexities of real estate law, you may want to speak with an experienced real estate attorney. You can submit a permit application through the city where the property is located, unless the property is in an unincorporated area, in which case you can submit the application through the county. During the process you will have to submit the blueprints of the proposed structure for approval as well.

The Necessary Evil of Permits

While all these regulatory hoops seem like a pain to jump through, they exist for a reason. Buildings in South Florida need to be up to code to resist hurricanes, and zoning laws make cities more organized and navigable. If the bureaucracy gets too confusing, real estate law professionals can help you with the process.

Dealing with Potential Issues

While we hope that issues don’t come up, sometimes they do. One of the more common real estate conflicts is a boundary dispute. Boundary disputes can arise when neighboring lots disagree on the property line. This usually means that property owners will have to find their deeds and their surveys and any other property documentation to see where the misunderstanding comes from. It is often best to avoid court for small issues such as boundary encroachment. If both parties want to stay out of court, they may turn to a third-party mediator to review the documents and help all the parties come to an amicable conclusion.

Real Estate Law Attorney in Coral Springs

If you have questions about land development and regulations in South Florida, turn to The Law Offices of Gary I. Handin, P.A. We are experienced legal professionals who know how to help navigate the complex world of zoning, permits, and real estate law. To learn more about our legal services, visit our website or call us today at 954-796-9600 to speak with a Coral Springs real estate attorney.

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Law Offices of
Gary I. Handin, P.A.

Providing professional legal services for the city of Coral Springs. Contact us today for a free consultation – 954-796-9600.

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