Skip to Content

News & Resources

Commonwealth Court rules on zoning for residential dwellings

2/23/2016 | Real Estate Blog

As we have written about in earlier posts, in some cases zoning issues play a role in the viability of a development. When matters involving zoning arise, there are different approaches that can be taken to try to resolve them. Sometimes, it involves taking the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment to court. A case of this nature was recently resolved.

At the heart of the case was whether residential property located near the Powelton Village campus of Drexel University, which was zoned for single family and two families, could be leased to college students. Each of the properties was home to a minimum of four students. Ultimately, the Commonwealth Court determined the city could restrict the use of a residential dwelling to families only.

In defining family, the Philadelphia Zoning Code determined “a person living independently or group of persons living as a single household unit using housekeeping facilities in common, but not to include more than three persons unrelated by blood, marriage or adoption.” Though the owners of the property asserted that the students living there constituted a household until, the court disagreed.

This means that going forward, other property owners whose property is zoned for family but want to rent it to more than three individuals who are not related, will need to seek a variance from the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment before doing so.

The inability to use your property the way you want could lead to a loss of money. Accordingly, it is in the best interest of property owners in this situation to work with a lawyer who understands Philadelphia zoning laws, to secure a variance.