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Before you build on your land or begin using it for a particular purpose, you need to understand your local zoning laws. Local governments enact ordinances that define how land may be used within the county or municipality – these ordinances are known as zoning laws. Zoning laws can legally restrict and regulate how you use your property. They can regulate whether you use the property for residential, commercial or agricultural purposes, for example. They can also regulate the size of your building and the size of your lot. If you want to build on a property that is inconsistent with current zoning laws – or if you want to use the property for a use that is not permitted by the zoning laws – then you need to request a variance from your local zoning board. A variance can be difficult to obtain because neighbors are likely to oppose it and municipalities are likely to favor compliance with the existing zoning laws. That said, variances are granted, and it can save you a lot of legal trouble to obtain a variance if you are going to deviate from the zoning laws.