Grandfather Clause

The Language of Real Estate

Grandfather Clause

A common expression used to convey the idea that something that was once permissible continues to be permissible despite changes in the controlling law.

The grandfather clause allows individuals or entities who were already engaged in a particular activity or met certain criteria before the new law or regulation was implemented to be exempt from complying with the new rules. In other words, they are “grandfathered in” and are not required to meet the new standards.

For instance, a developer with prior county planning approval to build on 10,000-square-foot minimum-size lots can be granted the right to build on such lots even if the current zoning regulations are amended to require 12,000-square-foot minimum-size lots. The developer is “grandfathered” under the originally approved subdivision plan. This situation is similar to nonconforming use.

Under state legislation regarding real estate pre-licensing educational requirements, current licensees may be “grandfathered,” or exempted, from such new requirements.

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