When going through the conveyancing process of buying a property, your solicitor may tell you that the property deeds contain a few covenants. But what does this mean? In this article, our property lawyers answer some frequently asked questions about restrictive covenants and how this might limit what you are allowed to do to the appearance of your new home or flat.
What is a restrictive covenant?
Covenants are obligations or restrictions that affect the use of a property. They transfer to a new owner with the title, which can be both positive and negative.
‘Restrictive covenants’ can be found in both freehold and leasehold titles. They typically include rules preventing certain things from being done to the structure or appearance of a property or restrictions on the land upon which the property sits, for example, keeping animals or using it for business purposes.
While covenants regularly feature on the deeds of ex-local authority homes or older properties, they can also be found where a plot of land is sold, with the seller retaining the remaining land. Restrictive covenants are also commonly found within deeds of new builds, multi-dwelling blocks of flats or housing estates.
What are common Examples of Restrictive Covenants?
Most properties will have some form of covenant, and your solicitor will make you aware of what they are and how they may restrict your use. Some of the more common restrictive covenants include, but are not limited to:
- Restrictions on erecting any building or structures on the land that has been acquired.
- Restrictions on the use of land for any business activity.
- Restrictions on the use of land other than for agricultural use and not to carry out any building or residential development.
- Restrictions on erecting more than one dwelling on the land.
Some covenants can be hundreds of years old and could be considered unenforceable if it is impossible to trace the original landowner or builder, if the wording is ambiguous and therefore difficult to apply, or because the covenant has become historically obsolete. However, you should not rely on this, and you must seek specialist legal advice if you have a restrictive covenant on your property that you wish to challenge or are unsure if you have breached a covenant. When going through the process of buying a property, your solicitor will also be able to guide you.
How do I find out what restrictive covenants are on my property?
Restrictive covenants can be found in the property’s title deeds and within the Land Registry records. Your solicitor can help you identify any restrictive covenants during the conveyancing process.
Are restrictive covenants enforceable?
Yes, restrictive covenants are legally binding and enforceable if they meet certain criteria. They must be clearly defined, have a valid purpose, and benefit another piece of land.
Can I remove a Restrictive Covenant?
It is possible to remove or modify a restrictive covenant, but the process can be complex. You may need to negotiate with the benefiting party, seek specialist legal advice, or apply to the Lands Tribunal for a modification or discharge.
If the party that benefits from the covenant is absent or difficult to contact, your solicitor might recommend putting an indemnity insurance policy in place to cover you, your mortgage lender and any future owners of the property against a claim for potential breaches.
What happens if I breach a restrictive covenant?
If you breach a restrictive covenant, the benefiting party may take legal action to enforce it. This could include seeking an injunction to stop the breach, claiming financial compensation, or requiring you to restore the property to its original condition.
If you have breached a restrictive covenant, seeking legal advice at the earliest stage is always advisable.
Restrictive Covenant Solicitors
At Rose & Rose, we have specialist knowledge and expertise in this complex area of law. We can help with restrictive covenants and in assisting neighbours with disputes about covenants.
We will work with you to ensure the best possible outcome in restrictive covenant and neighbour disputes.
Contact a member of our dispute team below to discuss the best way forward for you and we will provide you with further and specific advice tailored to your circumstances.
This blog post is not intended to be taken as advice or acted upon. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our team of solicitors
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