Restrictive covenants are often included in property deeds. They can limit what you can and cannot do with a property. While they have a purpose – they are put in place to protect the surrounding area’s character – they can sometimes prevent you from making the changes or improvements you want to make to your house.
This blog will look further at restrictive covenants and explore some common examples. We’ll also dive deeper into some common reasons homeowners might want to get around a restrictive covenant and look at ways you can do that.
What is a restrictive covenant?
A restrictive covenant is a legally binding agreement restricting the use of a property. Restrictive covenants are included in the property deeds. They are designed to protect the surrounding area’s character while maintaining the value of other nearby properties.
While you may own your home, restrictive covenants mean that you can’t do as you please with it. You will need to adhere to the rules laid out in the covenant. Have you knowingly or unknowingly breached a restrictive covenant? In that case, you may be obliged to undo the offending work (such as demolishing an extension), be fined, or face legal action.
Restrictive covenants can be placed on properties of any age, and the age of the covenant does not always affect its validity.
Restrictive covenants will run with the land. They apply to the current homeowner and all future owners if the property sells in the future. When buying a house, you must instruct your solicitor to carefully look over the property deeds and make you aware of any restrictive covenants in place before you exchange. Once you have signed the title deeds, you are liable for any incurred covenant breaches.
Common examples of restrictive covenants
Restrictions on the use of the property, such as prohibiting using the property for commercial purposes, are common. In some areas, such as Conservation Areas, restrictive covenants may prevent specific alterations to the property. The same may also apply if your property is a listed building.
Restrictive covenants can limit how you may extend the property or prevent you from doing certain things with the garden, such as constructing greenhouses and sheds or keeping livestock.
Some examples of typical restrictive covenants include:
- Appearance: You may only be able to use certain types of colours to paint the exterior of your house.
- Parking: There may be limitations on the kind of vehicles you can park at the property, such as caravans.
- Alterations: Extensions to the property might be prohibited, or you may need to stick to strict limits regarding extension size and height.
- Use: The property might be limited to residential purposes only, preventing you from running a business from home.
- Garden use: You may be prohibited from constructing certain types of buildings in your garden, or there may be limits on the kind of plants and trees you can grow.
- Activities: Certain activities on the property might be prohibited, such as loud music or renting a room on Airbnb.
Why would you want to get around restrictive covenants?
There are several reasons why you may want to get around restrictive covenants as a homeowner. These include:
- Improvements: Many people like to make improvements and make a home their own when they move in. However, restrictive covenants may prevent you from making specific property changes, such as certain extensions or windows.
- Property use: A restrictive covenant might make it impossible to use your property for something other than living in, such as running a home business.
- Adding value: You may want to make some changes and improvements to your property as they will add value to it. However, if restrictive covenants regarding these improvements are in place, they will prevent you from doing so.
How to get around restrictive covenants
Do you own a home with restrictive covenants in the deed and want to get around them? In that case, there are several options available to you. You can:
- Approach the person with the benefit of the covenant.
You can ask them to remove or modify the restrictive covenant or obtain ‘retrospective consent’ for any work that has breached it.
- Apply for removal or alteration.
You can apply to have the restrictive covenant either changed or removed, permitting you to carry out the actions it forbade. Apply to the Lands Chamber of the Upper Tribunal to have a restrictive covenant modified or removed if you feel it is unreasonable.
- Get restrictive covenant insurance.
A restrictive covenant indemnity insurance policy will cover the liability of any further breach of contract. You can obtain insurance if you have breached a restrictive covenant for at least twelve months without complaint.
- Seek legal advice.
It is always worth getting professional legal advice on restrictive covenants. A solicitor can help you see whether you can get around the specific restrictive covenant on your deeds and, if so, what your options are.
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