Zoning in HRM

Zoning in HRM


A common issue that arises when buying or selling real estate, is the zoning classification of a property. Zoning is essentially a classification given, by way of codes from HRM, to a property to determine what that property can be used for. For most of us living in detached homes located in typical subdivisions, zoning is what allows us to live in a home with our family in a setting of similar dwellings, not beside a nuclear waste facility for example. As you might imagine there are several classifications of zoning throughout HRM depending on where the property is to accommodate our many needs. The basics are identified with a letter along with a number which corresponds with guidelines set out in that areas Land Use By-Laws (see link below). There are 3 main zoning categories in HRM; Residential ("R"), Commercial ("C") and Industrial ("I"). As simple as that seems there are mixed use classifications for each of those which get very detailed and complex. 


In most areas of HRM, people are buying and selling homes with an "R1" zoning which refers to the simple residential use for one family as mentioned above. In addition to a single family home, an R1 zone would also allow for other property uses that go along with building residential subdivisions like parks, rec centres, churches etc. One specific issue that we see on a regular basis is the claim that a property has an "in-law suite" or has rental income from a "basement appartment". The reality is that there is no such thing as an "in-law suite" when it comes to zoning & properties in HRM. Unless the property has the appropriate zoning and permits to allow for multi-family use (ie. R2), HRM can force the owner to remove those second unit features. This can of course be very costly in a number of ways for a buyer who was unaware of the legitimacy of that in-law suite claim. To confuse the issue even more, there are scenarios where HRM has "grandfathered" unorthodox uses of properties, officially referred to as "legal non-conforming" use. In any event, HRM can be contacted & provide owners written confirmation of the zoning & use of their property. Buyers should always request such a document if purchasing a property with multiple units or income property advertised. 

Remember, each situation should be treated separately...be sure to ask your REALTOR® for more information.


For more information on zoning in metro you can visit 

http://www.halifax.ca/planning/map.html or contact 490-4000.