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What Is a Grandfather Clause?

A grandfather clause is an exemption to certain new regulations. This is commonly included when changes in rules, ordinances and codes occur. Covered are business establishments and private homes.

An example where a grandfather clause may be implemented is when city officials modify zoning regulations for business establishments such as requiring more clearance on their front part. With older buildings, letting them comply with this new regulation would be very impractical. For this reason, a grandfather clause would be appropriate to allow exemptions for businesses operating in old buildings.

But keep in mind that a grandfather clause may not always work and save properties and people from following what is called for by the law. In instances when strict compliance is required, individuals and organizations covered by the new ruling should always follow and hence, must have to face the costs involved.

It is also noteworthy that the exemption can only be for a certain period of time. It may be extended and it may also no longer take effect once a new ruling is carried out.

The term grandfather clause dates back to the late 19th century legislation and constitutional amendments implemented by several states in the southern part of the U.S. The legislation then effected new restrictions on voting. However, it gave exemptions to people whose grandfathers enjoyed the right to vote before the Civil War occurred.

In 1915, the United States Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional the original grandfather clauses. However, the term continues to be used until today.

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