Please Explain Land Rights.


Non-Conforming Use: Use in existence prior to the passage of a zoning ordinance and allowed to continue even though it does not conform; if property that exists as nonconforming is destroyed, it cannot be rebuilt without the approval of the zoning authority.

Variance: Approval by a zoning authority that allows an individual to deviate from the zoning requirement.

Conditional Use Permit: Allows for a use that does not conform with existing zoning but is necessary for the common good, such as locating a medical clinic in a primarily residential neighborhood.

Downzoning: Land zoned for residential or commercial use is rezoned for conservation only; it also applies to changes from dense to less-dense usage. The state generally is not responsible for compensating property.. owners for any loss of value unless the court finds that a “taking” of value has occurred such as land’s being rezoned from residential to conservancy.

Buffer Zone: A land area that separates one land use from another; a part that separates a residential neighborhood from a shopping center.

Spot Zoning: Reclassification of a small area of land for use that does not conform to the zoning of the rest of the area.

Planned Unit Development (PUD): Planned mix of diverse land uses such as housing and recreation in one comprehensive plan.


Taxation on Real Estate: Real estate taxes generally take priority over other liens & may be enforced by the court sale of real estate that is free of other liens.

Ad Valorem Tax (Latin for “according to the value”): Includes taxes levied on real estate by various governmental units and municipalities.

Assessment: Appraisal of value for tax purposes by an assessor representing the municipality in which the property is located.

Equalization Factor: Used in some states to correct general inequalities in statewide tax assessment.

Computation of Tax Rate

Special Assessments: Special taxes levied on real estate; require property owners to pay for improvements that specifically benefit their real estate (installation of a curb and gutter, streets, water system, sewers, etc.).

Computation of Tax Rate: The taxing district adopts a budget that identifies the amount of income to be raised from real estate taxes. To arrive at the tax rate, divide the amount of money required for the budget by the total assessed value of all properties within the taxing district. For example, if the taxing district must raise $600,000 from real estate taxes and the total assessed value is $10,000,000, the tax rate would be $600,000 ÷ $10,000,000 = 0.06, or 6 percent. The tax rate may be expressed in mills (a mill is 1/1,000 of a dollar, or $0.001); the tax rate in (b) would be 60 mills ($6) per $100 of the assessed value or $60 per $1,000 of the assessed value. The tax bill for a property is calculated by applying the tax rate to the assessed valuation of the property; for example, a home assessed for tax purposes at $60,000 at a rate of 6 percent, or 60 mills, would have a tax bill of $3,600.


Floodplain: Portions of land located near running bodies of water, such as rivers or lakes, that are subject to flooding; government controls generally restrict building in a floodplain.

Wetlands: Areas of land where groundwater is close to or at the surface of the ground for a period of time each year that may produce swamps, flood plains or marshes; because these areas of land are prone to flooding, they are covered by various federal, state, and local controls, such as zoning for conservation.

Shoreline Regulation: Zoning laws that reflect environmental as well as health and safety concerns; usually require zoning of all lands within a given distance of all navigable waters in each state; generally include tree-cutting rules, setback requirements for structures, filling and grading controls, dredging regulations, minimum standards for water supply and waste disposal, minimum lot sizes and widths, and subdivision regulations.

Eminent Domain: Power of the government to acquire private property for public use while providing just compensation for the property owner.

Escheat: State laws that provide for ownership of real estate to revert to the state when the owner dies intestate and leaves no heirs or when the property is abandoned.

Water Rights: Ownership of water and land adjacent to it as determined by state law, which is based on either the doctrines of riparian and littoral rights or on the doctrine of prior appropriation; owners generally have the right to use water so long as they do not pollute or interrupt the flow.

Riparian Rights: Rights granted to owners along a non-navigable river or stream.

Littoral Rights: Rights granted to owners along an ocean or large lake.

Prior Appropriation: The right to use water is controlled by the state rather than by the adjacent landowner. A person must show a beneficial use for the water, such as crop irrigation, in order to secure water rights.