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What Is the Difference Between Commercial & Residential Real Estate Law?

Are you a homeowner considering taking a plunge and investing in a commercial property? After going through the buying or selling of a home, you become more knowledgeable about the steps associated with the transaction’s actions. However, just because you’re familiar with the legal matters of residential real estate doesn’t necessarily mean you’re prepared to understand the complexities of a commercial transaction. 

At Hoegen & Associates, our Allentown, PA real estate lawyer aims to educate our clients to ensure every commercial real estate endeavor is successful. This blog post will explore the aspects of commercial and real estate law so that you can be prepared for your next move.

Residential Vs. Commercial Real Estate Law: The Basics

Laws for commercial properties vary significantly from those regulating residential properties. The specific businesses that can occupy a retail space also affect the type of law that applies to the property. For instance, a medical office building will be subject to different regulations than an industrial warehouse. 

Let’s explore some of the main distinguishing factors! 

Zoning Restrictions

Zoning laws are one of the most significant differences between commercial and residential properties. Zoning designates land use —  it’s vital to be aware of the zoning of any property you’re purchasing. These laws exist to keep incompatible uses from being too close together. For example, you wouldn’t want a daycare center next to a strip club or a hospital near an oil refinery.

Zoning also regulates the height and size of buildings and how much parking is required. Commercial properties are typically allowed to be larger than residential ones, but special permits may be required for construction.

Construction Laws

The construction of commercial and residential properties is held to different standards. In general, commercial buildings must meet stricter requirements for safety and accessibility than homes. For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that all new commercial construction be wheelchair accessible.

There are also fire code regulations that are more stringent for businesses. This protects both customers and employees in the event of a fire. Commercial buildings must have sprinkler systems, while residential ones do not.

It’s critical to ensure that any commercial property you purchase or lease is up to code. 

Tenant Rights

It’s easier to evict a tenant from a commercial space than a home — this is because businesses are more likely to be disruptive to their neighbors than individual residents. 

Commercial leases also tend to be longer than residential ones, which gives businesses the stability they need to grow and thrive. However, it also means that landlords have less flexibility in raising rents.


Commercial landlords are usually only required to reveal hazardous materials, such as asbestos or lead paint. Residential landlords must disclose any damage to the property, no matter how small. Knowing what disclosures are required before potential renter signs a lease is essential. 

If you’re considering buying or leasing commercial property, it’s essential to seek the advice of an experienced real estate lawyer. 


It’s easier to foreclose on a commercial property than a home. This is because businesses are less likely to be able to catch up on missed payments than individual homeowners. Commercial foreclosures also tend to take longer than residential ones. This is because there are usually more parties involved in the loan, such as lenders and investors.

Need Legal Assistance In Preparation For a Commercial Real Estate Transaction?

If you are planning to buy, sell, or lease a property, you must have an experienced commercial real estate lawyer on your side. At Hoegen & Associates, our attorneys have decades of experience assisting clients in commercial real estate transactions. 

We can help you navigate the complexities of zoning laws, construction laws, tenant laws, and disclosure requirements. We can also assist you in the event of foreclosure. Contact us today to get started!