Cook County adds new zoning check to home sales

The administrative tangle of selling a home keeps getting thicker every day.

For years, the city of Chicago required a zoning certification if you sell a home (condos are exempt) within its borders. The purpose of it is to warn the buyer of “illegal” apartments in multi-family housing. There are many illegal garden and converted attic apartments in the city and the zoning certification alerts the buyer to the correct number of units.

Now, starting March 21, 2015, homeowners in unincorporated Cook County will have to order a zoning use certificate before they sell their homes. The county is aiming to warn buyers of improper uses of land. At least 10 business days before closing (two weeks for those who are counting) the seller will have to pay $100 and submit a survey, a legal description and a statement that all work was done with building permits. The Cook County Building Commission then will  (or will not) issue a certification that the property is being used according to the zoning. Theoretically, a buyer might refuse to close if the county refused to certify that the property use was within the zoning.

A couple of problems with this:

1. It is very hard to determine whether properties are located in unincorporated Cook County in a village or a town. The new zoning requirement will be missed by many who will think the property is in a village or town, not unincorporated Cook county.

2. The fee of $100 is high and waiting two weeks for a decision is crazy.

3. Submitting the statement that no work was done without permits is kind of excessive, because a lot of work is done without permits. And a lot of work is done without permits by a prior owner, so how does the seller supposed to handle that?  There is no inspection of the property and most likely the county will look at the survey for additions made without a permit or outbuildings added without a permit.

4. The certification is good for 6 months and really should be ordered before a home goes on the market to avoid jam ups and closing delays.

So plan ahead if you are selling a house in unincorporated Cook county this spring.

(Thanks to Matt Hernacki for pointing out this new rule.)




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