What Do You Mean, I Can’t ____________(fill in the blank) On My Own Property?

This might become a regular series. You may recall that in my May Update, I wrote about California property owners who got into trouble for moving dirt and trees on their property because doing so violated a conservation easement. I received many responses to that newsletter, most of them to the effect of, “how could that happen?”


Nathan Hannah, Attorney

Then, a few weeks ago, I read about an ordinance adopted by a county in California that prohibits automotive repairs and maintenance on residential property under certain conditions. That kind of government regulation will always attract my attention. Municipal regulations that prohibit or restrict certain activities on private property are much more common than conservation easements like the one I wrote about in my May Update, but they both prompt the same question: “What do you mean, I can’t ______ [fill in the blank] on my own property?”

Upon closer inspection, that California county ordinance restricting car repairs on residential property appears to have some problems. In the county’s defense, I will say that there are undoubtedly many situations where car repairs being done on residential property can create a genuine nuisance to the neighbors. This ordinance, however, goes way too far, in my opinion. The ordinance recites several things that you can’t do when repairing a car on residential property, including “using tools not normally found in a residence.” Does that mean I can’t install a car lift in my garage? I know car enthusiasts who have done that. And even if what you’re using is smaller than a lift, how does anyone know with any certainty what constitutes a tool “not normally found in a residence?”

The county government that adopted this ordinance might have been sincerely attempting to address situations that are a material detriment to their community. There may be neighborhoods where people are running auto repair businesses in their home garages or driveways, and thereby creating a lot of noise and traffic. But the county sure did try to squash a fly with a sledgehammer, and in the process squashed a lot of other things that don’t do any harm (not to mention the infringement on the rights of property owners), don’t you think?

I read about the ordinance at this url:

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Nathan B. Hannah is a Shareholder in the Tucson office, and practices in the areas of estate planning and administration, real estate, and commercial transactions.  He is also a noted blogger, and you can find more of his articles on his private blog,

Contact Attorney Hannah:  or  520/ 322-5000

This communication is designed to bring legal developments of interest to the attention of our clients and others. It should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific legal advice in a particular matter. For further information on any of the subjects discussed, or for legal advice in connection with any particular matter, please contact us.