Restrictions on Real Property Ownership Typically Imposed by Law

Laws and ordinances at all levels of government (federal, state, county and municipal) restrict what you can do with the real property that you own. Enforcement of these laws typically resides with government agencies, normally local government but occasionally on the state or federal level. The three most common restrictions imposed by government are: 

(1) Zoning - restricting the use of the property to residential, industrial, agricultural, or commercial purposes are very common. The size and height of improvements attached to the property are likewise subject to restriction. 

(2) Environmental Hazards - statutes and ordinances outline what materials can be stored on the real property.  Responsibility for remediation of environmental hazards (such as asbestos, lead paint, petro-chemicals, radon and toxic wastes) is also government-regulated. 

(3) Public Easements and Right of Way - a portion of certain real property may need to be open for others to use. Governments use easements and right of way laws to regulate access to other property, provide for roads and sidewalks and to enable installation of electric/gas/telephone/sewer lines. A broader discussion of easements appears below. 

Violating property use laws and ordinances can result in fines, penalties, and injunctions and in some cases, even criminal prosecution.