Surveys of properties, if they exist, are typically recorded with the deed to your property. Deeds can be viewed and copied at the
Circuit Court Record Room located in the basement of the
John Marshall Courts Building located at 801 East Clay Street (East Clay Street between North 8th & North 9th Streets)
in downtown Richmond.
How do I find out if my property is in a historic district?
Richmond has more than 2,000 properties that are either historically significant or are located within the City Old &
Historic District. These properties are subject to an additional approval process through the
Commission of Architectural Review
City Old & Historic District maps (PDF) identifies properties within the City Old & Historic districts as well as individual historic buildings
that are subject to CAR approval.
What does being in a historic district mean?
Properties in the City Old & Historic District require, depending on the scope of the work, CAR approval for any exterior change to the
building or property that is visible from a public street or alley. Regulated changes might include additions, the replacement of windows or
doors, roof materials, fences or walls and paint color. It is advised that you contact the
Historic Preservation Division at (804)646-6335 to speak with a
staff member about any proposed exterior change(s) to a building, structure or property located within the City Old & Historic District.
An informational brochure on Old & Historic Districts and the
Commission of Architectural Review, a Handbook with Design Review Guidelines and the Certificate of Appropriateness Application and
Instructions may all be found on the
Historic Preservation website.
What is a Certificate of Zoning Compliance and when is it required?
A Certificate of Zoning Compliance (CZC)
is a permit issued by the Zoning Administration Office that certifies conformance with the Cityâ€™s Zoning Ordinance. A CZC is required for any
use of land, building or structures, or portion thereof, other than an existing single-family dwelling or an individual residential unit
(apartment) within multifamily buildings.
A CZC is not transferable and any new owner or tenant must obtain an updated CZC for the use of the premises. An inspection is required to
determine if the property complies with zoning requirements.
A CZC is also required in order to obtain a license to operate a business in the city. A CZC cannot be issued for a building or structure
unless there is a corresponding C.O. on file that reflects the same use and conformance with the Building Code.
Please consult the Zoning Fee Schedule for the required fee to accompany a CZC request, which is dependant on the specific use of the property.
What is a Zoning Confirmation Letter?
A Zoning Confirmation Letter
is a letter indicating conformance with city zoning regulations and is typically requested by lenders, title companies, attorneys and/or
prospective purchasers of properties. They are also requested for properties undergoing re-financing arrangements. It is suggested that you
request a Zoning Confirmation Letter prior to signing any purchase or lease contract.
Like a CZC, a request for a Zoning Confirmation Letter requires a fee that ranges from $50-$200. Please consult the Zoning Fee Schedule
for the required fee, which is dependant on the specific use of the property. A Zoning Confirmation Letter can be requested by anyone and may
be used in lieu of a CZC when the applicant is not the owner of the property. Types of reviews conducted for Zoning Confirmation Letters
typically include the verification of use, density and subdivision, "buildability" of a property or "lot-splits" of property. Review of some
properties may be more detailed or more difficult, but we generally require up to thiry (30) days for completion of a request for zoning confirmation
so it is advisable file your request promptly.
What is a Certificate of Occupancy (C.O.) and when is one required?
A Certificate of Occupancy (C.O.) is a document that is required under the Building Code and authorizes the use and occupancy of any building or structure within the city. A C.O. is typically issued after the completion of a new building or structure, or addition thereto, or after the use of a building or structure is changed.
The C.O. specifies, after the final inspection of the various (i.e. - structural, electrical or plumbing) components of the building, that the
use and construction of the building is safe and can be occupied. The requirements for new construction and inspections are the responsibility
of the Commissioner of Buildings and the Building Inspection Office staff located within the Bureau of Permits & Inspections.
A C.O. can also be requested independently of any construction work occurring. This type of request is known as an H-CO permit and is also
available in Room 110. Certain uses that permit group gatherings (i.e.: restaurants, nightclubs, churches or theatres) require H-CO approval.
This ensures conformance with standards mainly related to building and fire safety issues.
The Zoning Division reviews all C.O. requests, whether they are independently requested for existing structures (H-CO) or upon completion of new construction work. Zoning Staff verifies conformance with zoning-related regulations, such as: yards (setbacks), height, parking, signs, landscaping, etc. Due to Zoning Administration's review, inherent in any C.O. approval is compliance with zoning standards.
The Commissioner of Buildings is the official keeper of Certificate of Occupancy records. It is suggested that you call (804) 646-6955 to
determine what C.O. approvals have been issued for the property.
How long does it take for zoning review approval?
Due to the nature and complexity of individual requests, it is not always practical to guarantee a specific review period for certain
applications. However, the Zoning Administration Office does have established permit-processing deadlines and most reviews are completed
within 10 working days of submittal although we typically approve half of all permits the same day and approximately 75% within 5 working days.
Certain factors may alter these deadlines, namely: incomplete or inaccurate information or plans, the need for coordination with other
agencies, workload and/or inspection requirements.
Home business (Home Occupation) applications
are processed "over-the-counter" while you wait. In addition, Certificate of Occupancy applications, as the result of new construction, are scheduled for inspection
on the next business day after receipt of the request for a final (299) inspection. To schedule a zoning final (299) inspection:
After zoning approval is obtained, the Permits & Inspections Bureau issues the actual printed hard-copy of the building permit (BP), Certificate of Occupancy (C.O.) or Certificate of Zoning Compliance (CZC) document for display at the property.
What if my project doesn't meet zoning requirements?
Zoning Division staff, during the zoning review process, will contact you if
they discover non-compliance with zoning requirements. During these discussions, they will offer you alternatives and suggestions on how the
project may be amended to meet code regulations without having to obtain special approval(s). However, in certain instances, your project may
require additional or special approval(s) such as an Administrative Variance, Variance, Special Exception,
Plan of Development (POD),
Certificate of Appropriateness approval from the Commission of Architectural Review (CAR),
Special Use Permit,
Conditional Use Permit or a
In these instances, you will be advised as to whom to contact for your particular situation.
What if I think Zoning Administration Staff made the wrong decision?
If you have had an application denied or if you feel the approval of an adjoining propertyâ€™s project was not correct,
you may appeal the decision to the Board of Zoning Appeals. The Zoning Division
has an appeal form that must be completed and submitted with the required filing fee of $250. Once completed, it will be submitted to the
Secretary to the BZA for scheduling. For information on the BZA appeals process, contact the Zoning Administration Office at (804) 646-6340.
What is a Variance or Special Exception and how do I obtain approval?
An Administrative Variance or a Special Exception is a waiver process whereby the Zoning Administrator or the
Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) can grant relief
from zoning requirements on your property. Either approval process is subject to specific limitations regarding the granting of these
waivers, which are the result of a unique or extraordinary situation such as topography, shape of the site or some other unusual factor(s).
Administrative Variances typically waive yard (setback) requirements and a Special Exception typically allows waivers to other zoning
requirements of the property.
If it is determined that an Administrative Variance or a Special Exception is needed,
Zoning Division Staff will assist you. Due to legal notice requirements,
you must submit a complete package to the Zoning Administration Office. Both processes require that you submit a completed application and
fee, two sets of a survey (or site plan), and design drawings (floor plans & elevations) showing the proposed project. Zoning Administration
Staff will prepare the application for your review and approval after which it is formally mailed or filed with the BZA secretary.
In the case of a Special Exception request, a public hearing (first Wednesday of each month) is held at City Hall where you must present
information as to why your specific request is justified. For information on the Administrative Variance, contact Zoning Staff at
(804) 646-6340 or (804) 646-6701. For Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) Special Exception process information, please contact the BZA Secretary
at (804) 240-2124.
What is a Plan of Development and when is one needed?
A Plan of Development (POD) is an additional administrative approval process that is required for certain specified uses within the
Zoning Ordinance and is granted by the
Director of Planning and Development Review. POD review is administered by the
Land Use Administration Division and involves the general character
of the site and building layout.
This includes, but is not limited to, an evaluation of building location(s) on the site, vehicular
circulation and parking, screening and landscaping, signage and lighting. Although the formal POD review and approval process takes place as
part of permit review, it is recommended that you consult with Land Use Administration Staff in the early stages of project planning for
assistance with site layout and Plan of Development requirements as a preliminary Plan of Development submittal will save you time by
avoiding delays during the normal permit review process. It is also highly recommended that you obtain the services of a professional to
prepare any site or building plan(s).
A Plan of Development checklist of submittal requirements can be obtained by contacting Zoning
Division Staff at (804) 646-6340 or Land Use Administration Division Staff at (804) 646-6304.
Can I obtain a copy of the Zoning Ordinance or Zoning Maps?
The Zoning Ordinance is available
online or may be purchased for ($15.00) in Room 110 of City Hall.
How do I change the zoning on a property or subdivide a property?
The zoning designation of a piece or property or the applicable regulations may be changed through a request for a
Conditional Use Permit or
Special Use Permit all of which must be approved
by the City Council after public hearings. For this reason, a zoning approval may
take up to six (6) months to process. Each zoning application request is looked at independently on a case-by-case basis and must be consistent
with the City's Master Plan. You may also
wish to review the Subdivision Review Process link for additional information and assistance. You will need to contact the
Land Use AdministrationLand Use Administration Division at
(804) 646-6304 regarding the rezoning
or subdivision of property.
How do I file a zoning complaint?
Zoning Administration responds to reported zoning complaints and concerns. Typical violations include the illegal use or density of
property, operation of businesses without required permits, fences that are too high, auto repair operations and parking of commercial
vehicles in residentially-zoned areas and similar problems. If you believe someone is violating the Zoning Ordinance, file and monitor your
complaint by the following methods.
Before filing a complaint you must obtain the numeric address of the property and the specific nature of the violation. Although you do not
need to divulge your name, address or phone number; in most instances it assists us in addressing and responding to your concern(s). If you
provide your name, it will NOT be disclosed, because it is protected from disclosure under Virginia law. It is also important that you notify
us as soon as any problem is discovered, especially if it involves illegal construction work.
Zoning Division staff will record the complaint information and forward it to zoning enforcement staff for investigation.
Zoning Division staff will, if necessary, conduct a site inspection within
three days of the assigned date.
If the inspection reveals a zoning violation, the Zoning Officer will send a Violation Notice and Correction Order to the property owners
and/or the responsible party within two days of the inspection date. This notice gives the property owner(s) and/or violator a set time-frame,
typically 30 days, to correct the violation.
At the end of this 30-day period, Zoning Division staff will re-inspect the property to verify if compliance has been achieved. If the
violation has been corrected the investigation is closed. If, however, the violation still exists, the Zoning Officer may initiate court
action by preparing a criminal summons in an attempt to obtain judicial remedies to force conformance. Violation of the Zoning Ordinance is a
Class I misdemeanor, which means a conviction of a zoning violation is punishable by fine of up to $2,500 and/or up to 12 months in jail, per
violation, or some other disposition determined by the court.
What if I get a violation letter from the Zoning Administration Office?
The most important thing you can do is to make contact with the
Zoning Division staff member assigned to your case to discuss the notice.
To rectify the issue, you may: appeal the notice to the Board of Zoning Appeals, comply with the
or obtain special (Board of Zoning Appeals or City Council) approval. The notice of violation will advise you of alternatives, but if you
do not respond, you may be summonsed to criminal court. Zoning violations are a Class I misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail
and/or a fine of up to $2,500 per violation, or some other disposition handed down by the court.
Can I park or store a recreational vehicle or boat on my property?
Yes, they may be parked in residential areas, but it may not be parked in front of the house or within the required side yard (setback) for
the zoning district in which you are located. Side yards range between 5-10 feet, depending on the specific zoning district. In addition,
you may not use a recreational vehicle for living purposes nor have it connected to utilities, except for maintenance purposes, while on the
Can I park or store a commercial vehicle on my property?
Vehicles exceeding 6,500 pounds empty weight, semi-trailers or commercial vehicles may not be parked or stored on properties in residential
areas. A commercial vehicle is any vehicle that exceeds 6,500 pounds empty weight, a trailer or semi-trailer, which is designed or used for
carrying freight, merchandise or more than 10 passengers, including buses. However, buses used for carrying passengers and parked on a
church or school site are permitted. Commercial vehicles parked on the street are regulated by the Police Department as zoning rules only
regulate private, and not public, property.
Who do I call inoperable or unlicensed vehicles?
For properties vehicles on private property that have neither a current license plate nor inspection sticker, contact the Property Maintenance
Office at (804) 646-6398 or use
Repair of motor vehicles IS NOT permitted in any residentially-zoned district, except for repairs to your personal vehicle(s) and in all districts,
junked or dismantled vehicles unfit for operation on the streets must be stored in a fully-enclosed building.
My neighbor has a bunch of junk and trash on his property, what do I do?
Improper storage and accumulation of garbage and rubbish may attract rodents, animals or other vermin, produce noxious odors and create
potential health hazards. Garbage should be placed in leak-proof and covered containers. The accumulation of rubbish such as ashes, paper,
rags, cartons, boxes, wood, tree branches and yard trimmings, tin cans, metal, discarded appliances and other inoperable mechanical equipment
is not permitted and should be disposed of properly.
You may contact the
Property Maintenance Office at (804) 646-6398, visit in
person regarding accumulation of these items, or by sending a letter to:
City of Richmond
Property Maintenance Division
900 East Broad Street, Room G12
Richmond, VA 23219
How high can grass, weeds or shrubs grow before it is a violation?
City Code can require owner to cut grass and weeds on property when it gets to a height of 12 inches. Bushes, shrubs, hedges and other similar
vegetation shall not project into the street, alley or sidewalk. Each owner is responsible for his or her property to the center of any alley
that adjoins it. Contact the
Property Maintenance Office at (804) 646-6419, by sending a letter to:
City of Richmond
Property Maintenance Division
900 East Broad Street, Room G12
Richmond, VA 23219
My neighbor's tree is hanging over my house. Can I remove it?
You generally have the legal right to trim branches of a neighbor's tree that hang over your property line. The city does not regulate
or maintain trees on private property. It is suggested you contact an attorney experienced in real estate law regarding these issues
prior to trimming or removing a neighbor's tree. If the tree is on city property, please contact the arborist in the
Urban Forestry Division.
How many people can live in an apartment or house?
Current zoning requirements limit occupancy of individual apartments or houses to a no more than three unrelated persons living together as a
single housekeeping unit. Certain facilities may have up 8 persons, plus staff, if licensed by the State of Virginia..
Why do I need to enclose my trash collection (dumpster) facilities?
Since 1976, all buildings and uses have been required to enclose and provide screening around trash collection areas. Screening must be
opaque and can be constructed of brick, stone, wood or some other appropriate material. Chain-link fences with slats are not an approved
method of screening. Enclosure is required to provide both a visual barrier from adjoining properties or the street as well as to stop trash
from blowing onto adjacent properties or public spaces. Before constructing a trash enclosure, submit a plan to the
Zoning Division Office for review and
How many pets or animals can I have on my property?
The keeping or boarding of more than five (5) dogs, cats or other household pets over the age of four (4) months is considered a kennel
and can only be located within certain zoning districts.
Also, keeping of domestic animals (i.e. - horses, goats, chickens) for non-commercial purposes is allowed, provided that all pens, runs,
out-buildings and other facilities for the housing or enclosure of the animals are not less than two-hundred feet (200â€™) feet from all
property lines. This spacing limitation equates approximately with a minimum lot size of one (1) acre.
Can I operate a business out of my home?
A business operated within a house or apartment is known as a Home Occupation and is a permitted accessory use, subject to certain
limitations. Generally speaking, certain businesses that do not generate customer or employee traffic, manufacture or store materials or
require the use of commercial-sized vehicles are permitted. A
Certificate of Zoning Compliance Application
and a Home Occupation Rules form
are required to be completed and submitted for all Home Occupation approvals.
Approvals can usually been done over-the-counter, but in certain instances, depending on the specific type of business, may need to be
inspected. Tenants in rental property need to obtain the owners' (or authorized agent) signature certifying knowledge of the proposed
What do I need to do to operate a day nursery?
Care of up to five (5) children, not including children of a family residing on the premises, is permitted within your residence and is exempt
from State licensure provided no employees reside off of the premises. However, facilities with more than three children under the age of 2-years
are not exempted and shall be licensed.
Day nurseries are permitted accessory uses when located within churches, or other places of worship, community centers or school buildings,
provided the outdoor play area requirements are met. This includes:
- A minimum outdoor play area of 100 square feet for each child enrolled to be furnished upon the premises.
- The play area shall be enclosed with an opaque structural fence or wall not less than four feet in height, but not in the front yard.
- No outdoor play area or equipment can be in a required front or side yard.
A day nursery would require a building permit application, including floor plans prepared by a registered architect or engineer. The plans
will require the labeling of the use of each individual space as well as the occupancy. It also requires the staffing level, hours of
operation and other related operational characteristics (busing, drop-off area, etc).
In addition, you will need to provide a survey or site plan, drawn to scale, showing the existing and proposed improvements, including:
- Outdoor play area
- Outdoor play area fencing
- Location(s) of any play equipment
Does the city enforce any covenants or restrictions applicable to my property?
Some properties in some subdivisions are subject to covenants or deed restrictions that regulate the use of property beyond the limitations
of the Zoning Ordinance. These deed restrictions and covenants are private agreements between property owners and are not enforced by the city.
Check with your homeownerâ€™s association for regulated items.
Who do I contact regarding requirements for handicapped parking spaces?
You should contact the Permits & Inspections Bureau at (804) 646-4169.
Can I look at someone's building plans or a specific file?
Yes, but you may be requested to file a Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) request form, commonly known as an "FOIA" request, to access the
file information. Within five days, the city will review the information that exists and that which can be made available. Not all
information is releasable, as there are some exclusions specified by Virginia law. Depending on the nature of your request(s), the city may
also charge you a fee prior to releasing the information. This cost defrays the cost to research, compile and duplicate the information.
There is typically no charge to simply review information unless it requires expansive research or the accompaniment of city staff. In some
instances, the firm or individual that prepared architectural or engineering plans may have copyrighted them and, for this reason, they may
not be duplicated.
What exterior wall & pole light shielding requirements apply to my property?
There is not a specific answer to this question as it depends on a number of variables. The
has requirements for lighting for parking areas and parking lots. Parking areas and parking lots are required to provide lighting during
non-daylight hours if they are to be used during these times.
Lighting shall be designed and installed to concentrate illumination within the parking area or lot as well as to prevent glare on adjoining
properties and streets. When lighting is required, the intensity of the illumination shall be not less than one footcandle, but the
intensity of illumination cannot exceed one-half (0.5) footcandle at any property line abutting a lot in an R or RO District. The height of
lighting structures shall not exceed the height limit of the district in which they are located, and in no case shall they exceed 35 feet in
The lighting structure height, type, style and shielding method will impact this requirement. A photometric study will more accurately
dictate these variables and photometric plans are going to be required in most instances. Some properties have specific conditions placed
upon them by a Special Use Permit (SUP), Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) or Plan of Development (POD) approval, which may be different from
these requirements. In addition, installations within the city's Old & Historic Districts may require design review and approval of the
Commission of Architectural Review (CAR).
The Zoning Ordinance regulates lighting in other instances and specifies in section 114-670 that "lighting shall be located, directed or
shielded so as not to shine directly on adjoining properties or to create a traffic hazard by means of glare or similarity to or confusion
with traffic signals, warning lights or lighting on emergency vehicles."
This is interpreted to preclude property owners from installing flood lights that are directed at adjoining properties. A street light,
though of great illumination intensity, spreads light over a wide area with the main purpose of providing light to pedestrians while
diffusing it at the street line. This would not violate the Ordinance, but a flood lamp directed onto an adjoining house may violate this
requirement. Lighting that shines into streets, flashes or causes traffic or other inherent danger, may not be allowed. Very few complaints
of this nature are received, but the owner should consult a lighting professional and use some discretion in the interest of being a good
neighbor when installing lights on property.
Who do I contact regarding flood plain information?
FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program maps
and Chapter 50 of City Code - Richmond's Flood Regulations can provide information on properties within the flood plain or our
Contact Permits & Engineering Services
at (804) 646-6440 for more specific information.
What is a nonconforming use?
A property is considered nonconforming when it isn't currently permitted in the underlying requirements of the
Zoning Ordinance (i.e.: a store in a
residential neighborhood). The term nonconforming is also known as "grandfathered" and means that the use is legal, but existed prior to the
adoption of the current ordinance.
If the use of the property is nonconforming, special regulations govern these properties. No additions, extensions or structural alterations
are permitted without special approval from either the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) or City Council. In addition, signs are limited for
these properties and other restrictions on the use of the property may be necessary. To find out specific information regarding restrictions
on nonconforming uses, please contact
Zoning Division staff at (804) 646-6340.
Can I erect, place or post a sign on a street, sidewalk, median, or other public space?
No; City Code specifically prohibits any sign (i.e. - placard, banner, flag, bulletin, etc.) to be
placed or erected on any fixture (pole, tree, light; fire hydrant, trash receptacle, wire, bridge,
railroad trestle, drinking fountain, traffic sign or device) upon or over public property (i.e. -
street, sidewalk, alley, bridge, park or playground) without specific approval. This provision
includes any sign soliciting or promoting a good, product, service or activity as well as political
campaign signs. Any person is permitted to abate the violation by removal of a sign from a
public way without liability or other legal consequence. Violation of this provision is
punishable by a fine of up to $50 for each offense. If abatement is made by the City, the City
may assess reasonable costs incurred in removal against any person responsible for or
beneficiary of the sign. Further, for a willful violation, the city shall be entitled to recover any
additional costs, including attorneyâ€™s fees and punitive damages, for any proceeding which it
may bring to enjoin future violations.