Code of the West - Wide Open Spaces

There are many issues that can affect your decision to purchase a piece of property. It is important to research these items prior to your purchase.
BUILDING PERMITS - Building permits are required in all unincorporated areas of the County, but not all properties that are for sale are legal for building. Building permits will not be issued on properties that are too small for the zoning district in which they are located, or if the parcel was created without proper approvals. The County Assessor has many parcels that are recognized for the purpose of taxation, but for which a building permit cannot be issued. You are strongly advised to check with Coconino County Community Development to determine if a parcel is suitable for building.

EASEMENTS - Existing easements on your property may require you to allow construction of roads, power lines, water lines, sewer lines, etc., across your land. These existing easements may also prevent you from building your residence, accessory buildings, or fences where you want to locate them. All legally recorded easements must be disclosed in your title report. Check with your real estate agent, title company, or the Coconino County Recorder's Office to identify all existing recorded easements.

MINERAL RIGHTS - Many property owners do not own the mineral rights on/under their property. This information should be included in your deed or in your title report. Owners of these rights can change the surface characteristics in order to extract mineral deposits. Much of the land in Coconino County can be used for mining. A special review by the County is not always required, and existing mines in the vicinity can expand and result in negative impacts to your property.

PROPERTY PLAT/REGISTERED SURVEY - The only way to verify the location of property lines is by having a Registered Land Surveyor survey and mark the property corners. Before applying for a building permit, it is the property owner's responsibility to accurately identify property lines.

FENCES - Fences that separate properties are often not aligned accurately with the property lines and should not be relied on to identify property boundaries. Again, the survey done by a Registered Land Surveyor is the only way to confirm the location of your property lines.

DEED RESTRICTIONS/COVENANTS, CONDITIONS AND RESTRICTIONS (CC&Rs) - Many subdivisions and individual parcels have covenants and/or deed restrictions that limit the use of the property. These documents are private agreements and are not enforceable by the County. It is important to obtain a copy of the covenants/deed restrictions (or verify that there are none), and determine if you can live with the rules.

HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATIONS - Homeowners associations typically establish by-laws that outline how the organization operates, and they may set monthly or annual dues. In some cases, they also enforce CC&Rs. You may be legally required to join the association, which often takes care of common elements, roads, open space, etc. A poorly managed homeowner association or poorly written covenants can result in problems for the property owner-check with neighbors who have belonged to the association for a long time to determine its effectiveness.

THE FUTURE OF YOUR PROPERTY - What surrounds your property now is not a good indicator of what the surroundings will look like in the future. Spectacular views can be replaced by structures if neighboring private parcels are already approved for development. There is also no guarantee that surrounding public lands will remain undeveloped. Check with Coconino County Community Development and the appropriate state and federal agencies for possible future developments that may already be in the planning stage.

FLOODPLAINS - Before you decide to build your home near a ditch or channel, consider the potential danger to your family and property. All channels have an associated floodplain, but only larger ones have been studied and mapped. Consult Coconino County Community Development regarding potential flood and drainage issues. If there is an existing ditch across your property, there is a good possibility that it is covered by an existing easement. Through the easement, owners of the ditch are allowed to enter your property to gain access and use heavy equipment if necessary to maintain the ditch.

IRRIGATION CHANNELS/STREAMS - Water flowing in an irrigation channel or stream belongs to someone. Do not assume that because water flows across your land, you can use it. Check with your neighbors and the Water Rights Division of the Arizona Department of Water Resources to determine specific water rights.

ARIZONA'S OPEN RANGE LAW - Arizona has an open range law. This means that, if you do not want cattle, sheep, or other livestock on your property, it is your responsibility to fence them out. It is not the responsibility of the rancher to keep his/her livestock off your property. Also, if your dog harasses livestock, the rancher may legally shoot the dog without prior notice to you.