Check zoning ordinances before opening a business, such as a daycare, in your home.
Check zoning ordinances before opening a business, such as a daycare, in your home.

If you are going to operate a home business, have animals near the house or want to add an outbuilding or basement apartment, you'll need to find out what the property is zoned. Many different municipalities regulate zoning, so it's important to find out which municipality regulates the zoning for your property. Zoning is divided into two general categories: residential and commercial. Within each general category there are several divisions, such as residential single family, residential multi-family and retail. To find the out what the property is zoned, start with the property address.

Talk to a realtor and neighbors. As you are examining the property, ask a Realtor or the surrounding neighbors to see if they know which governmental agency is responsible for the zoning in that area. Long-term residents or experienced Realtors are more likely to know that information because they are more likely to have interacted with a zoning board. Single-family residents, especially short-term residents, have little reason to need zoning regulations.

Do an Internet search. The first line of research in the digital age is an Internet search using the exact property address. With so many public records online, this effort is likely to reveal the municipality that regulates zoning and planning issues for that property.

Visit the county offices. If you are not able to discover the municipality through an Internet search, then visit the county offices. Speak with the county recorder's clerks and ask to see zoning maps or tell them the address or general location of the property and ask if it is in the county jurisdiction or in some other municipality's jurisdiction for zoning. The county recorder keeps records of every real estate transaction in the county, and has detailed real estate maps. She can direct you to the correct municipality.

Visit or call the appropriate municipality. Once you have discovered the municipality that is responsible for planning and zoning your property, call or visit them. There is usually a zoning department or board, a planning and zoning board or department, or a planning department that handles zoning regulations. If you have the address for the property, a simple phone call may be adequate. If not, you may have to go into the office and look at zoning maps.

Check zoning guidelines for your use. Ask if there are specific written, online or printed guidelines describing what uses are allowed in each zoning area. Each subcategory of residential or commercial is usually assigned a number, such as R-1 for residential or C-2 for commercial. The numbers will not give you specific enough information to know if your proposed use is acceptable for that area, so ask for the specifics. Be sure to check such regulations as sign height, yard setbacks and allowed home business uses before moving forward with any project or business.