As a Florida small business owner, your commercial lease is often a major expense. Thus, it is important you can in fact conduct your business in the space you have leased. However, it may surprise you to find out that many leases contain provisions in which the landlord states that the landlord is not guaranteeing you can in fact conduct your business in the leased space as a result of zoning and other land-use restrictions.
Therefore, to ensure you can conduct your business, it is important to understand how to perform the due diligence necessary to verify your Florida zoning and land-use restrictions with the applicable local government.
Zoning Verification Letters
Most local governments, including Collier and Lee Counties, have a process to apply for what is called “Zoning Verification Letters.” These are letters issued by the local government verifying whether a particular use can take place at a particular property. This may seem unnecessary because you could, yourself, check the zoning portion of the local government’s code to see if your use is listed. But what you may not be anticipating is that the list of uses may not be as clear as you would hope, or you may have a new business, like a vape shop, that was not contemplated when the zoning code was initially enacted. Further, available parking may not be sufficient for your proposed use, despite it being a legal use, and this may require anything from applications for reductions in parking requirements and variances from parking requirements, to physically adding more parking.
This is where zoning verification letters come in. The purpose of this letter is for the local government to verify that you can in fact conduct your business in the space you intend to lease (without modifying any site plans or adding any parking). Of course, the opposite holds true too and the letter may tell you that you cannot run your business in that location without more parking or rezoning. Finding this information out is critical before signing a commercial lease.
Local governments may vary in whom they allow to apply for zoning verification letters (for example, anyone or just the property owner), so if it is just the property owner, this is something you should ask your potential landlord to submit.
Make sure you can legally conduct your intended business in your leased space before you sign. Land use and zoning laws should be consulted before signing. Attorneys at Woodward, Pires & Lombardo can help. Zoning verification letters can be an essential tool in protecting your business.
Due Diligence in Commercial Leasing
This small amount of due diligence can go a long way in avoiding a scenario where a multi-year commercial lease is signed, and your business simply cannot be conducted out of the building.
Your other option is to ensure your Florida commercial lease allows you to terminate it without penalty in the event your business is not allowed to operate in the lease space. Depending on the landlord, however, this may not be an option, which is why this due diligence is so critical.
Talk to Our Southwest Florida Land Use & Zoning Attorneys
Should you have any questions about local government law, land use & zoning, or commercial leases in Florida, please contact one of the attorneys at Woodward, Pires & Lombardo listed below:
Zachary W. Lombardo is a Naples native and an associate attorney at Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A. His Juris Doctorate is from the Florida State University College of Law. He focuses his land use, zoning, business, contract drafting, and litigation practice in the Southwest Florida community.
Lenore T. Brakefield is a Naples native and partner at Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A. Her Juris Doctorate is from the University of Florida Levin College of Law. Lenore focuses her law practice in civil and commercial litigation and is experienced in construction litigation matters, as well as local government law, code enforcement violations, community association law, real estate law and transactional matters. Additionally, Lenore is a Certified Financial Litigator by The American Academy for Certified Financial Litigators.
Anthony P. Pires, Jr., B.C.S. is a partner at Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A. and a Board Certified Specialist by The Florida Bar in City, County & Local Government Law. He represents numerous public and governmental entities, special districts, concerned citizens and private sector clients throughout Collier and Lee Counties in Local Government Law, Land Use and Zoning Law, and Government Relations.
Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A.
3200 Tamiami Trail N, Ste 200
Naples, FL 34103
Marco Island Office:
606 Bald Eagle Dr, Ste 500
Marco Island, FL 34145