Understanding Restrictive Covenants
Many people are aware that properties are often subject to various zoning ordinances. The purpose of these restrictions is to promote the health, safety, and general welfare of the public and dictate how a parcel of property may be used. Far fewer people, however, are familiar with restrictive covenants, which similarly restrict how a parcel of property may be used.
What is a restrictive covenant? A restrictive covenant is a clause in a deed (or lease) that limits or dictates what the owner of the property may do with the property. These are commonly created by the developer and apply to a group of properties or lots. Restrictive covenants often dictate things like construction requirements, cosmetic standards, and impermissible uses. These restrictions are not extinguished upon transfer of the property.
Purchasing a property with a restrictive covenant If you are looking to purchase a property, it is important to confirm whether any restrictive covenants are involved and, if so, to understand what exactly those restrictions cover. Some covenants can be very specific restrictions such as exterior paint colors, siding materials, tree type, fencing type, and the number of bedrooms.
The covenant will often contain provisions for amending or altering it, but this may require the permission of a governing body or review board. A covenant may be deemed to be unenforceable, but that would require a determination by the court. In general, however, it is often very difficult to alter these restrictions or obtain an exception. Failure to abide by a property’s restrictive covenants can end up costing an owner future problems and money.
For this reason, a property owner should always speak to a qualified real estate attorney before entering into any contract for the purchase and sale of the property.
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