REAL ESTATE LAW UPDATE: November 2023
The Beauty of Dinosaur Statues is in the Eye of the Beholder

Compliance with zoning codes, building codes, and design guidelines is an evergreen topic for the real estate lawyer, and for this newsletter.  A situation that illustrates how those types of rules are enforced recently came to my attention. It involves a house in California that is, to put it bluntly, gaudy.  It looks like it’s made of giant red balloons.

Hannah

Nathan Hannah, Attorney

But the gaudiness of the house wasn’t the subject of the enforcement action by the municipality.  The features that the municipality took issue with were the fifteen-foot tall dinosaur statues, cartoon figure statues, and other structures in the front and back yards of the house. 

The town where this occurred is a small, affluent suburban community in northern California. It’s the type of town where you might expect pretty tight architectural controls, resulting in all the houses looking pretty much the same.  In that situation, the town itself adopted design standards and put an architectural review board in place to enforce the standards. 

In Arizona, you are more likely to find design standards and an architectural review board in a planned community, enforced through covenants put in place by the developer of the community, than you are to find them covering an entire town, put in place by the municipal government.  Both methods are effective as a means to maintaining a particular aesthetic, usually in a relatively small area.

The northern California town with the gaudy house couldn’t do anything about the appearance of the house itself, however, because the house was built before the town put its design standards and architectural review board in place. What they could do, maybe, was enforce their design standards as to the structures that came later.

Noncompliance with the town’s building code could have been another avenue for enforcement against the owner of that gaudy house, but the building code probably doesn’t regulate aesthetics.  It also probably doesn’t apply to purely decorative things like statues. Whether fifteen-foot tall dinosaur statues and cartoon figure statues are generally considered aesthetically pleasing or not isn’t the question.  The question is whether or not they are structures that are subject to the building code. 

There is also the zoning code to consider, but zoning codes typically don’t regulate aesthetics, either.  Zoning codes regulate the use of property.  The zoning code might put a limit on how tall your statues can be, but it won’t control what they depict, what they are made of, or what color they are.

I have an impression that in some communities, people have the idea that they automatically have a say in the aesthetics of the structures on someone else’s property. I don’t know where they get that idea. Yes, the city has the authority to tell homeowners to remove such eyesores as inoperable vehicles that are visible to the neighbors, but that authority does not extend to what the house or other permitted structures look like. Unless your town has adopted aesthetic guidelines, like that northern California town, or unless you live in a planned community, the neighbors really don’t have a say. If you want to paint your house loud lime green, you can.

But here’s the beauty of the free market. If you want to live in a community where there are rules about what color your neighbors can paint their houses, or what their lawn statues can look like, and where there is a governing body to enforce those rules, you can choose such a community. There are lots planned communities in Arizona, some of which have very restrictive aesthetic guidelines. The rules in those communities are called covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs). Many also have design guidelines in addition to the CC&Rs.  The governing body that enforces those rules is called the homeowners’ association, or, in the case of design guidelines, the architectural review committee of the homeowners’ association.

On the other hand, if you want to paint your house a loud color, or have fifteen-foot tall dinosaur statues, you can choose to buy a house in a neighborhood that has no design guidelines, no CC&Rs and no homeowners’ association. Then you can have your collection of dinosaur and cartoon character statues in your front yard. Just make sure they comply with, or aren’t subject to, the building code. 

CORPORATIONS, LLCs, AND LIMITED PARTNERSHIPS MUST REPORT
THEIR OWNERSHIP TO THE US TREASURY IN 2024

Since I wrote about it in my November, 2022, Tax Law Special Report, there has still been almost no attention given in the general news media to the reporting rules created by the Corporate Transparency Act. Those rules require all corporations, LLCs, and limited partnerships formed in the United States to report, to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”), the personal information of every individual who owns at least 25% of, or exercises “substantial control” over, the corporation or LLC. 

Here are the basics of what, when, and how you will have to report:

– What must be reported?  Each reporting company will be required to identify itself and report four pieces of information about each of its beneficial owners: name, birthdate, address, and a unique identifying number and issuing jurisdiction from an acceptable identification document (and the image of such document).

– When must companies report?  All companies created before January 1, 2024, must submit their initial reports no later than January 1, 2025.  All companies formed on or after January 1, 2024, will have to report within 30 days after their creation. Information recently released by FinCEN says that reports will be accepted starting January 1, 2024. 

– How do companies report?  The latest information I have seen says that the reporting will be done electronically through the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s website, www.fincen.gov. 

In addition to the initial reporting requirement, your corporation, partnership or LLC will have to file an updated report within 30 days after any change to any of the reported information. That will include not only a change of owners, but any change to any of the identifying information about each of the owners.

Nathan Hannah


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:   nhannah@dmyl.com  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.

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