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Grandfather Clause

A grandfather clause can be used in many aspects of law. Essentially it is a loop hole to circumstances that new law does not permit. Many individuals that are faced with new law compliance are often left questioning if their situation falls under a grandfather clause. Uncertainties of how a grandfather clause works and what circumstances warrant a grandfather clause often lead to questions like the ones answered below.

What is a grandfather clause?

Grandfather clause is a legal term describing how an old rule can continue to be in effect even though a new rule has begun. However the new rule will apply to all future situations. When used as a verb, to grandfather, means to grant an exemption. Grandfather clauses do have limitations. They can be limited by a set period of time, or circumstance.

What was the grandfather clause in voting?

The term grandfathered or grandfather clause actually originated in response to voting restrictions. In the late 19th century, legislation and constitutional amendments were passed by quite a few southern states, which created literacy and property restrictions on voting, but exempted those whose ancestors (grandfathers) had the right to vote before the civil war. This grandfather clause gave the poor, illiterate white individuals the right to vote, whereas it prevented poor, illiterate African American former slaves and their descendants the right.

Recently my next door neighbor built a third floor addition to his house. He claimed he could do so because our adjoining wall is from the 1800’s and therefore grandfathered. Is he correct; does a Pennsylvania grandfather clause permit him to build it without following code?

A grandfather clause would not “cover” something that is newly built. It would cover the rules that pertained to that dwelling from 1800. Anything that was built “new” would have to follow the building code rules currently in place. For example If your property was built 120 years ago, and 10 years ago the city passed a decree requiring all properties to have sprinkler systems installed, your property would be grandfathered and not be required to make the renovations. Any new properties would have to follow the decree.

Will the grandfather clause allow me to replace an old building for my business in an area that has been rezoned?

When dealing with a grandfather clause, as a general rule, once an attempt has been made to remove or replace a building that been grandfathered, you would lose the grandfathered compliance. Replacing or remodeling will undoubtedly require a permit. If so, obtaining a permit to do the remodels or replacements you will be required to follow the current building code regulations, therefore losing the grandfather compliance.

I have land in a gated community. It was voted into a city. I have a travel trailer and a motor home on my property. Before becoming a city I was able to leave them there for 15 days then take it back. They were there when it became a city. Am I protected under a grandfather clause?

The permission to have the RV parked on the streets beyond 15 days would have needed to be grandfathered in by the city before the annexation of the gated community. If the city did grant the gated community and its rules a grandfather clause to certain city codes when it was annexed then you may be covered. However, if the city did not grant the gated community a grandfather clause before annexation then the homeowners would need to comply with the existing city codes.

Having an understanding of how a grandfather clause is used can help when faced with circumstances that may need to invoke a grandfather clause. Experts can help answer what a grandfather clause is or how a grandfather clause pertained to voting. Get the answers fast and affordably by asking an Expert online.
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