Appeals & Enforcement

Local Preservation Laws
| Authority to Regulate Property | Historic Designations | Reviewable Actions |
| Maintenance Requirements | Economic Hardship | Appeals and Enforcement | Other Land Use Laws

Preservation Law 101

| Federal Preservation Laws | State Preservation Laws | Local Preservation Laws | Constitutional Issues |

Historic preservation ordinances either provide for appeal to another administrative body or legislative body or specify that appeal is to be made directly to court. In establishing an appeal process, the appellate body should be required to uphold the commission's decision if it is supported by "substantial evidence" or a "rational basis" exists for its decision. If the appeal body engages in "de novo" review (i.e., it engages in its own fact-finding rather than limiting its review to the information contained in the record and/or is not required to defer to the expertise of the commission), that body must use the same criteria as the preservation commission in making its own decision.

Preservation ordinances are usually enforced through stop-work orders and the assessment of fines and other penalties for individual violations. Fines generally range from $100 to $5,000 per day depending upon the type of property being regulated, residential or commercial, and the likelihood for violations. Penalties for unlawful alterations or demolitions may include the denial of a building permit for a number of years or mandatory reconstruction. (Stiffer penalties are used to discourage midnight demolitions of historic structures, where a fine might be viewed as a business cost rather than deterrent.) In cases of demolition by neglect, a commission may be empowered to repair a building and then recoup its expenses by imposing a lien on the property. Ultimately, the commission may seek an injunction in court to compel compliance with the law.

Learn More

Layperson's Guide to Preservation Law: Federal, State and Local Laws Governing Historic Resources
First published in 1997, this booklet provides a concise and comprehensible guide to federal, state and local laws governing historic resource protection. The 2008 edition includes updated information on transportation issues, eminent domain, easements, the American's with Disabilities Act, and the regulation of historic religious properties.