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Churches and Nonconforming Use

Two of the most common terms that we hear when working with churches are Conditional Use Permits and Grandfathered in. Although there seems to be a basic understanding of zoning and how it relates to a use being Grandfathered in, most need further explanation as to how it will affect their church in the future as a legal nonconforming use. Zoning: All property has an underlying or specific zone wherein the City or County has set forth in its General Plan for all zones within their jurisdiction. These zones indicate […]

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Property Tax Assessments

As a general rule, real property in California is reappraised for tax assessment purposes when there is a change of ownership, new construction, or the market value declines below the previously assessed value. However, in the nonprofit world of real property, a reassessment may also occur due to a loss of a Church, Religious, or Welfare exemption. Although these exemptions are explained in another article, their affects can greatly impact your property tax assessment. Otherwise, the assessed value of the property will increase by no more than 2% per year. […]

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Special Use Appraisals

The Special Use Property Appraisal (With insertions of opinion as to the appraisal of a religious property) The California Bureau of Real Estate Appraisers Practice Act defines an appraisal the act or process of developing an opinion of value for real property, and does not include an opinion given by a real estate licensee or engineer or land surveyor in the ordinary course of his or her business. The standards used within the appraisal profession are set forth in the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) which were developed […]

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Solar Panels

Solar Panels and the Church Solar panels on church roofs are becoming more and more popular. For starters, the electricity bill at any given church can be astronomical, especially in the summer. Churches are often looking to cut cost in order to be good stewards of their property and finances. Saving money, and possibly profiting from solar panels may be a good alternative, but there are always risk involved. Cost: Always of primary concern, one must consider the cost of taking advantage of a large roof area in order to […]

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Conditional Use Permits

Conditional Use Permits As with most things in real estate, especially when dealing with Special Use Property, it all comes down to highest and best use. Both of which have their roots in the zoning ordinances. In other words, what uses are permitted on the property. Sometimes a Special Use property is permitted by right, or “Grandfathered”. Other times, a Conditional Use Permit is required. Although a permit sounds simple enough, don’t let the name fool you. A Conditional Use Permit can be a long and expensive process with no […]

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Church’s and the Attorney General

California Attorney General California has given great over-sight to the Attorney General’s office to regulate and protect the assets of charities, including churches and religious organizations. Since nonprofit organizations are established to perform a particular purpose, the Attorney General makes sure that the organizations assets are used for that intended purpose. Religious Organizations: Religious corporations classified as religious by the Secretary of State are automatically exempted from registration and not required to register or file annual reports with the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts. However, the Attorney General does […]

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What is Escrow?

The Escrow Process There often seems to be some confusion as to what and Escrow is and how it functions in regard to the sale of a property. What follows is a brief description of the Escrow Process and how it works. In short, an Escrow is the process in which a Buyer and Seller use a neutral third party for the delivery, safekeeping, and disbursement of documents, and funds. This third-party intermediary acts under agreed written instructions from both parties (not just one party), and will not act until […]

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Holding Title to Real Property

Title in Real Property The purpose of this article is to make you aware of the many different ways in title in real property may be held or vested. Although there are many different means in which one can have an interest in land, such as Fee (Simple, Absolute, Determinable), Life Estate, or Future Interest, I will try not to bore with such, yet alone the Rule Against Perpetuities. Title to real property in California may be held by individuals, either in Sole Ownership or by more than one party. […]

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What Defines a Church

Defining a Church? Recently, a potential buyer approached a City Planner asking what their Temple could and could not do on a particular piece of property. A disagreement arose between them as the person at the City kept referring to Church use, while the interested party kept trying to correct them in stating that they were not a Church, but a Temple. The question arose as to what is a church and how does it affect property use? The dictionary doesn’t help much then it defines a church as a […]

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Eminent Domain and the taking of property

Eminent Domain and Inverse Condemnation Eminent Domain is generally referred to as the taking of real property (real estate) by a governmental agency for the benefit of the public with just compensation. Often is referred to as Condemnation. Taking: Eminent Domain is the actual taking, usually permanently, and is the government’s removal of physical possession of real property from the owner. However, even where the government agency does not physically take possession of the land, it may have placed such restrictions upon its use so as to constitute a temporary […]

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