Like other cities, Orlando and many of its suburban communities have a zoning code.

The zoning code can be quite complicated, and it can be hard for residents, particularly those aspiring to develop investment properties, to comply with all of the rules and keep their costs reasonable.

It can be tempting for many people therefore to try to ignore or skirt around the zoning laws and various other land-use provisions on Orlando’s books. Before doing this, though, people need to understand the possible penalties involved.

The basic penalty is $500 for a violation. Also, the violation gets noted as what is called a civil infraction, meaning there is no criminal conviction for code violations.

While this might not seem like much, the $500 penalty gets imposed for every violation of a zoning code and for every day that the violation continues.

So, if a person receives a citation for 2 zoning ordinance violations, and it takes 10 days to correct them, the maximum penalty is $20,000.

Needless to say, code violations can quite quickly add up, and the city can enforce their fines via liens, foreclosures and other serious collection actions.

The City of Orlando does have a schedule under which people can pay a substantially reduced penalties of just a few hundred dollars.

However, these reduced penalties are available only if the person accused admits the violation and, presumably, corrects it. In fact, after two violations, a person or business no longer has the option of paying reduced penalties; they face the risk of the $500 a day fine.

Of course, the flip side is that correcting a violation of the zoning code or other land use provisions can cost thousands of dollars in its own right.

It can also mean that the person cannot use his or her property as intended and, effectively, has land that is either worthless or has diminished value.

If anything, the steep penalties demonstrate how important it is for aspiring land developers and even private citizens to take the City’s zoning code, and all land use matters, seriously.

If at all possible, they should negotiate a way to conform the project to the code or to seek appropriate legal relief.

Sometimes, though, even the most cautious of landowners can wind up dealing with an unexpected code violation or even multiple violations. In these cases, options for negotiating or even legally fighting the action may be available.