Owning your home doesn’t automatically mean you can do what you like to it.
Certain restrictions can be incorporated into the deeds of land and property that prevent or limit what a homeowner or landowner can and cannot do.
These limitations are called restrictive covenants. Such constraints are most common in property sales where a seller retains nearby or adjoining land. They are designed to protect the value of the property and its surrounding area by ensuring no substantial alterations can be made to a house, flat or piece of land that might be to its detriment or that of its surrounds.
Restrictive covenants are also sometimes incorporated into a buyer’s deeds by housing developers and property management companies. They are usually used to prevent homeowners from undertaking work which could impact negatively on a neighbourhood or are perceived to threaten a desired level of uniformity.
In some situations, restrictive covenants could extend to a ban on painting the exterior of a flat a certain colour if it would be deemed to adversely affect the aesthetic of a block.
Leases between landlords and tenants also frequently include covenants. In addition to common covenants such as paying the rent on time, a landlord could pass on certain restrictive covenants to their tenants, for example, prohibiting certain works or significant alterations to the property.
In this blog, our specialist Property Solicitors answer some frequently asked questions about restrictive covenants in housing, considering what they are, why they exist, and what you can do if you breach them.
What is a restrictive covenant?
A restrictive covenant is a legally binding clause written into the title deeds of a property that limits what can be done to, and with, the property or land.
Some of the most common restrictive covenants include:
- Alterations and extensions to the building.
- Changes to the use of a property, for example, converting a building into flats or turning a house into business premises.
- Rent and lease restrictions.
- Limitations on pets.
- Limitations on home colour.
- Requirements for exterior maintenance, such as mowing your lawn or fixing your fence.
- Parking restrictions.
Restrictive covenants do not automatically expire. Most restrictive covenants ‘run with the land’, which means the obligations they impose are permanent and are passed down from owner to subsequent owner.
Are there restrictive covenants on every property?
Not all properties are subject to restrictive covenants, although they can apply to both freehold and leasehold properties.
Restrictive covenants are more typically found in the title deeds of the following properties:
- New builds.
- Multi-dwelling residential properties.
- Housing estates.
- Ex-local authority homes.
- Older properties.
- Where a plot of land is sold and the seller retains the remaining land.
Why do restrictive covenants exist?
Restrictive covenants are generally used to protect an area from development or other activities which could undermine its character.
How do you know if your property or land has a restrictive covenant?
Restrictive covenants are usually listed in the title deeds of a property and should be discovered during the searches undertaken ahead of a property’s purchase.
However, if you are unsure whether your property has any restrictive covenants attached, check with a solicitor. This is a complicated area of law, and specialist legal advice is vital. An experienced property lawyer can help identify any restrictive covenants and establish whether they are enforceable.
If you want to remove or change a restrictive covenant on your house or land, a specialist property lawyer can advise on the best way to legally break it.
What happens if you breach a covenant?
A breach of covenant means that one or more parties has not acted in accordance with the covenant that is currently in place.
If you breach a covenant, whether knowingly or accidentally, you should seek immediate legal advice. Breaching a covenant leaves you open to potential legal action from the other party.
Penalties for breaching a property covenant could include:
- Undoing any work carried out and returning it to its previous condition.
- Paying damages.
- Facing a legal challenge.
Restrictive Covenants in Port Solent
Residents of Port Solent in Portsmouth must abide by certain deeds of covenants to maintain the area’s unique character.
The High Court ruled in favour of Port Solent’s Residents’ Management Company POSOL that houses in Port Solent cannot be let for short-term periods and that assured shorthold tenancies are bound by certain conditions.
These include abiding by the following restrictive covenants for tenants:
- No parking of caravans.
- No parking of motor homes.
- No parking of lorries.
- No parking of large vans.
- No parking of boats other than in a carport or garage.
- No washing to be on display.
- No right of way along the marina capping.
- No fishing.
- No swimming.
- To maintain the area in a neat and tidy condition.
- No business activity if this involves visits by customers or storage of merchandise.
- No nuisance.
Find out more here.
If you live in an ex-local authority property in Portsmouth, you are also unlikely to be able to make external alterations due to restrictive covenants imposed.
However, recent challenges to covenant rulings suggest that owners of ex-council properties could see covenants lifted.
If you want to discuss the possibility of removing a covenant from an ex-council property in Portsmouth, or the surrounding areas, please speak to Larcomes today to discuss your options.
Property Solicitors Portsmouth
If you have any questions about restrictive covenants, please contact Larcomes today. Our solicitors in Portsmouth and Waterlooville have the knowledge and expertise to help.
We can assist tenants facing potential breach of covenant claims, help homeowners with restrictive covenant issues in title deeds, and advise landowners and landlords on any restrictive covenant requirements they want to be included in leases.
Depending on the nature of your situation, your solicitor will discuss all the costs involved with you at the start of your case and ensure you are fully aware of what these costs will be.
In certain cases, we can provide a range of fixed and staged fee processes with monthly direct debit arrangements available to help you manage costs.
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Please note that this article is not intended as legal or professional advice. It is for general guidance only, and updates to the law may have changed since it was published.