A covenant is a promise, and when used in property law, is a promise that is usually legally binding on the parties to the deed in which the covenants are contained.
So, if a covenant is a legally binding promise, then restrictive covenants are a legally binding promise that prohibits something from being done.
Typically, a modern source for such covenants would be a developer of a newbuild site imposing the covenants in the transfer deed to the first owner of the property. The covenants stay on the title to the property no matter how many times a property is sold. They are binding not only on the first owner of the property but future owners too.
The aim of imposing restrictive covenants is usually to maintain standards in the area where the property is built.
A list of a few common restrictive covenants found in a modern-day transfer may be:
- Not to use the property for any purpose other than a private dwellinghouse in the occupation of one family
- Not to use the property for any illegal immoral or improper purpose and not to do anything would a nuisance annoyance or inconvenience to the neighbourhood
- Not to park any vehicle caravan trailer or boat of any kind on the property so as to be visible from the roads except for a private motor car
- Not to place upon the property any advertisement safe for a board of usual size announcing that the property is to be sold or let
- Not to erect any building or structure on the land without the consent of the developer
- Not to keep or allow to be kept on the property any livestock other than animals usually kept as domestic pets
- Not to damage or remove any previously existing trees hedges or plants
Restrictive covenants affect a prospective purchaser as once completion takes place, and the buyer has their keys, they will be bound by any restrictive covenants that may affect the land. If you are buying a property that is subject to covenants that are the same or similar to those set out above, then your intention to build a large extension with bi-fold doors looking out over your garden, or to start keeping rare species of snakes and spiders may be challenged by those with the ability to do so!
More often than not, if a restrictive covenant is broken, for example a homeowner builds an extension without the required permission, there are no consequences other than the requirement, once the homeowner comes to sell the property, to either obtain an indemnity policy for lack of permission or to obtain retrospective permission from the person or company that imposed the covenant.
Restrictive covenants are not always a bad thing as they can stop a neighbour from making changes to their own house that could affect the value and quality of your own property.
If you require more information on restrictive covenants or need advice around acting against a restrictive covenant, contact our office today.