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What Are Restrictive Covenants?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 5 Sep 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Property Boundaries Deeds Contracts

Restrictive covenants are sometimes imposed by a seller to prevent the buyer from using or developing the land in such a way that the seller feels could be damaging to the land which the seller has retained.

Common examples include an agreement not to erect any buildings or structures on the land or to use the land to run a business without the express permission of the developer. Restrictive covenants can actually cover a broad range of issues but one of the most frequently broken is in making alterations to an existing property without obtaining consent from the appropriate third party, which is often the original builder.

How Do I Know if I’m Affected by Restrictive Covenants?

A lot of the time, people buy new property and their conveyance solicitor has not bothered to make them aware that restrictive covenants affect the property. This is why it pays to thoroughly check out the deeds to the property as any covenants will be contained within this document. Ignorance is no excuse where the law is concerned. By signing the title deeds, which you will have been required to do, it basically means that you have read, understood and signed an agreement to all of the terms within it. Therefore, it might be the case that you could, for example, be required to tear down a house extension which you have had built if the person with the benefit of the covenant enforces it against you. One of the key things to remember here is that planning permission from your local authority or building regulation approval is completely separate from covenant consent and must be applied for separately.

Another example might be to do with Boundaries where a neighbour wants to erect a fence of a certain height between his house and his next door neighbour’s, yet the restrictive covenant does not permit this. This is a typical example of the kind of dispute that can arise in neighbourhoods where, perhaps, the houses are rented and contracts and covenants dictate what you can and can’t do in relation to things like home and garden improvements.

Breaching a Restrictive Covenant

If you think you have breached a restrictive covenant, you need to employ the services of a professional conveyance solicitor. The enforcing of covenants is an extremely complex matter and a good conveyance solicitor may spot that the restrictive covenants which appear within the deeds or legal title of a property have been incorrectly drawn up, or may discover that the correct procedures have not been followed. In essence, there are sometimes legal ways in which a conveyance solicitor can prove that the covenant is not enforceable.

Sometimes a way around the problem is to take out indemnity insurance, although the insurance company may impose specific requirements which must be met, such as no dispute being currently in effect or the breach has continued for several years. Other solutions can include contacting the original developer who imposed the covenant to see if they are willing to grant what’s termed ‘retrospective consent’. However, in this case, you’ll almost certainly have to pay a fee with no guarantee that they will agree. Alternatively, they may agree to lift the covenant but might also seek compensation from you from breaching the covenant.

Often it’s only when problems or disputes arise between neighbours that the whole issue of restrictive covenants springs to light. Whether it’s boundaries that are the issue or other plans a person might have for the land, the best way to get the matter resolved is to speak to a conveyance solicitor who will be able to help resolve the matter.

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My neighbour decided one day to remove my fence panels and replace with larger ones then erect a fence at the front of our properties. We have a restrictive covenant but he went ahead and did it as a result I can no longer put my car on the driveway as I cannot now open my car door to get out. I will be getting an electriccar in new year and as such will not be able to charge it as this neighbour is so stubborn he ignores all issues and has since had a restrictive covenant lifted for him to have this unsightly fence. Can the council intervene if it means I cannot charge my new electric car What is the point of everyone signing covenants only to have it lifted because a neighbour wishes to devalue your property. These were his words I will make your house worthless. So far has cost me a fortune in solicitors but no one seems to be able to help. Advice needed
Tomtommad - 5-Sep-18 @ 11:37 AM
Neighbour has started a childminding business , the children are out in the garden for 4 days a week from 9-30 till 5pm. The noise means I can no longer have my windows open nor can I enjoy my garden, Have had a word with herabout the loud music she often plays. Is here anything I can do tostop her being in the garden for so any hours a day.
ann - 12-Jul-18 @ 3:22 PM
I live on a cul de sac with a large garage. Only recently decided to put a planning application in for a garage at the back on the right hand side of the garden which will be facing another garage. This got rejected on the basis it will mean two trees will need to be cut down. Now I have put an apeal for building the garage on the otherside and my biggest worry is the covenant restrictions that will prevent the build such as someone like a neighbour. Can some use it against you for the simple reason a garage can stop them from getting out and the place is not adapted. Thanks
Sid - 26-Jun-18 @ 11:46 PM
We have very little parking up our cul de sactherefore most of the neighbours respect each others parking spaces . We have one neighbour with a driveway that constantly thinks it's OK to disregard this and take up spaces Or move their cars offdrive for visitors to park on their drive causing no end of hassle.She saidid she has an illegal drive and therefire does not have to use it. It has a dropped kerb. Now I know no one has so called spots but after 20 odd years of using them and being respectful of it you would thinkthis new neighbours would want to get on
Woody - 14-Jun-18 @ 1:22 PM
Some years ago, my southerly neighbour acted on behalf of 5 householders in purchasing the field which runs along the back of our gardens and some 2 acres to the north of us, this was intended to protect the sanctity of our own back gardens. However, when we received the contract of sale he had placed a restrictive covenant, blocking any building, on all plots except the one at the back of their property. We were not happy about this and said so at the time, but were bullied into proceeding with the purchase as agreed. Last year we received a letter from his solicitor saying that the plots had been numbered wrongly (in error) and the larger plot north of our plot was in fact the one that should not have been placed under the restrictive covenant, and were we happy to have it changed? As the plot to the north directly abuts our land and we have heard that the neighbour intends to sell it to developers we refused, as a development would definitely reduce the value of our property. We have now received a solicitor's letter threatening us with legal action and costs against us if we do not agree the change. Does he have any legal leg to stand on when the mistake was made by his solicitors in the first place?Thanks.
Fed up and worried.. - 1-May-18 @ 7:00 PM
My husband and I own the driveway, lane, leading to six other houses as well as ourselves. They have rights of access over the lane as long as they pay towards maintenance . We have recently discovered that one of our neighbours is running a Fitness business from his home which entails his clients also using the drive. We have a restrictive convenient on our house stating that we are not allowed to run a business from here, I am unsure if the same applies to him. I am more concerned about the additional wear and tear on the lane which is a clay and shingle ancient lane that we have to maintain. Am I within my rights to insist that his clients park on the main area of road and walk down to his property in order to ease the traffic from his business. I am not concerned about his running the business from home, only the increased use of the lane.
Aunty Mog - 1-May-18 @ 1:32 PM
Chezza - Your Question:
We moved into our property 2 years ago. The house was built in 1985. We were notified that a strip of land at the back of our garden has a restricted covenant on it but we would like to put a shed there. We have 2 properties behind us whose gardens back onto it, which have 7ft hedges. What actions do we need to take to be able to put the shed up

Our Response:
You haven't given details of the restrictive covenant. Does it prohibit the erection of shed? If so, you should follow the advice in the article above entitled "Breaching a restrictive covenant"
ProblemNeighbours - 27-Apr-18 @ 10:21 AM
We moved into our property 2 years ago.The house was built in 1985 .We were notified that a strip of land at the back of our garden has a restricted covenant on it but we would like to put a shed there.We have 2 properties behind us whose gardens back onto it, which have 7ft hedges.What actions do we need to take to be able to put the shed up
Chezza - 24-Apr-18 @ 11:26 AM
I have recently bought a victorian semi. My neighbour is a childminder and has just built a large wooden outbuilding at the bottom of her garden to run her childminding business from. She employs an assistant. The planning department has informed her that she needs to submit a change of use planning application for the new development and her current business. I have checked her title deeds and there is a restrictive covenant regarding business use and buildings that are not dwelling houses from being erected in the garden. Is there anything that I can do as the neighbour to enforce this covenant.
BCTripper - 22-Apr-18 @ 5:28 PM
Hboo2003 - Your Question:
Our landlord who is disabled could no longer manage his 4 bed detached house. He converted his outside storage into an annexe which he has lived in for 2 years. He also runs an account business which he is winding down in a small building at the other side of house. We rent the main house myself husband child and my mum.All was lovely and apparently has been for 32 years. The house across the yard sold last August. The new people are still doing it up and have not moved in yet. We received a solicitors letter from them saying the landlord had broken the covenance. Accusing us of over occupancy saying we have builders staying over night which we don't. They take pictures of every visitor although very few and state the amount of people visiting the property is causing them stress. Our landlord has 2 carers a day and maybe 2 clients a week. We have 1 or 2 visitors a week. It's totally quite no one is ever here. They want us evicted and the business to close immediately. Can they do this ???? No one had ever caused them any problems or blocked their way or anything. We do not understand why???

Our Response:
You may need to get a solicitor to look at the terms of the covenant on the main house and annex etc. We can't really comment without far more detail.
ProblemNeighbours - 9-Apr-18 @ 2:20 PM
Stanpitmarsh - Your Question:
We own a property in a terrace of 8 houses and we have a detached garage with parking space alongside which is opposite the rear of our property with shared vehicle access for all 8 properties.When we moved in 12 years ago, a shed was in our parking space and we were happy with that. Last year a neighbour accidentally damaged the shed beyond repair with his car and we had to remove it. When we told our next-door neighbour that we were going to replace it, they told us that they did not like us having a shed in the parking space as it made it difficult for them to park (but not impossible as the previous next door neighbour had no problem doing so). We were then told that they had read the restricted covenant which says that the car parking spaces are to be used for vehicles only and to deviate from that would require permission from the managing agent and that they would put in a complaint if we were to do so. We have found out that the managing agent went into liquidation 20 years ago and the property was not bought as a going concern. Is the covenant still valid and if we were to replace the shed, who would they put the complaint into?Thanks

Our Response:
It's likely that the covenant maybe still relevant if it related to action that would affect other neighbour. Your neighbour may be able to apply to the courts to have the covenant enforced, although as your shed was in place for over 10 years anyway, we don't know how the judge would decide. It might be worth seeking professional legal advice (be sure to get a copy of your title deeds to take with you).
ProblemNeighbours - 9-Apr-18 @ 11:40 AM
Our landlord who is disabled could no longer manage his 4 bed detached house. He converted his outside storage into an annexe which he has lived in for 2 years. He also runs an accountbusiness which he is winding down in a small building at the other side of house. We rent the main house myself husband child and my mum. All was lovely and apparently has been for 32 years. The house across the yard sold last August. The new people are still doing it up and have not moved in yet. We received a solicitors letter from them saying the landlord had broken the covenance. Accusing us of over occupancy saying we have builders staying over night which we don't. They take pictures of every visitor although very few and state the amount of people visitingthe property is causing them stress. Our landlord has 2 carers a day and maybe 2 clients a week. We have 1 or 2 visitors a week. It's totally quite no one is ever here. They want us evicted and the business to close immediately. Can they do this ????. No one had ever caused them any problems or blocked their way or anything. We do not understand why???
Hboo2003 - 8-Apr-18 @ 2:12 AM
We own a property in a terrace of 8 houses and we have a detached garage with parking space alongside which is opposite the rear of our property with shared vehicle access for all 8 properties. When we moved in 12 years ago, a shed was in our parking space and we were happy with that. Last year a neighbour accidentally damaged the shed beyond repair with his car and we had to remove it. When we told our next-door neighbour that we were going to replace it, they told us that they did not like us having a shed in the parking space as it made it difficult for them to park (but not impossible as the previous next door neighbour had no problem doing so). We were then told that they had read the restricted covenant which says that the car parking spaces are to be used for vehicles only and to deviate from that would require permission from the managing agent and that they would put in a complaint if we were to do so. We have found out that the managing agent went into liquidation 20 years ago and the property was not bought as a going concern. Is the covenant still valid and if we were to replace the shed, who would they put the complaint into? Thanks
Stanpitmarsh - 6-Apr-18 @ 8:20 PM
Charlotte - Your Question:
My new neighbour is planning on erecting a fence outlining her boundaries but in doing so will block access to our garage by car as the drive is a shared driveway. The land for the driveway is owned by a third party and leased to both mine and next door. In the lease there is nothing mentioning a shared driveway however I have lived in this house for 15 years and the driveway was always used as a shared driveway between us and next door (a different neighbor) as it was with all previous tenants. Is there anything I can do to stop the fence being erected and blocking access to the garage?

Our Response:
Is there anything in the title deeds for your home that mentions this. Have you cotnact the owner of the land (the freeholder) to ask about this?
ProblemNeighbours - 6-Apr-18 @ 3:19 PM
My new neighbour is planning on erecting a fence outlining her boundaries but in doing so will block access to our garage by car as the drive is a shared driveway. The land for the driveway is owned by a third party and leased to both mine and next door. In the lease there is nothing mentioning a shared driveway however I have lived in this house for 15 years and the driveway was always used as a shared driveway between us and next door (a different neighbor) as it was with all previous tenants. Is there anything I can do to stop the fence being erected and blocking access to the garage?
Charlotte - 6-Apr-18 @ 12:24 AM
We are in the stage of buying a property. We have read that we can not park a commercial vanon the driverway. We are only moving as my teenager son has mobility problems and the new house has a downstairs bedroom with adjoining wet room. This could affect our move. Contracts have not been signed yet Can we get it overruled and how?
Jacks10 - 25-Mar-18 @ 1:53 PM
Janci - Your Question:
I live in a small cul-de-sac on an estate. All the houses were built about 25 years ago by the same developer. My next door neighbour has his house up for sale and has told me that a property developer is interested in buying his house and plans to turn it into an HMO. The house is 2 storeys, has 5 bedrooms and a double integral garage which could mean there is a possiblity of up to 7/8 bedrooms (3 of which, would be large doubles). There is a covenant in the title deeds which says that the houses are to be used as a 'single private dwelling only'. Can this covenant be used to prevent the property from being turned into an HMO?

Our Response:
Please note, we have responsed to your query on the other page where you've also raised it here.
ProblemNeighbours - 20-Feb-18 @ 12:58 PM
I live in a small cul-de-sac on an estate.All the houses were built about 25 years ago by the same developer.My next door neighbour has his house up for sale and has told me that a property developer is interested in buying his house and plans to turn it into an HMO.The house is 2 storeys,has 5 bedrooms and a double integral garage which could mean there is a possiblity of up to 7/8 bedrooms (3 of which, would be large doubles).There is a covenant in the title deeds which says that the houses are to be used as a 'single private dwelling only'.Can this covenant be used to prevent the property from being turned into an HMO?
Janci - 16-Feb-18 @ 7:58 AM
Ricky - Your Question:
My neighbours have obtained planning permission on their part of a piece of land of which I bought half to build a large garage at 13ft. high which will block the view from my living room window and garden. there is a valid restrictive covenant which states there is to be no buildings or house extensions on the land, it was sold to both parties as amenity garden land 3 years ago.I had rented the land for 14 years.I will lose my visual amenties and my home will fall in value plus looking at a high brick wall from my home will make me ill.I am desperate, what can l do about it? I have lived here nearly twenty years, the neighbours have lived there for just over 3 years.

Our Response:
Planning permission is irrelevant if there is a restrictive covenant in place - and planning departments do not usually take consideration of/are not aware of the existence of a covenant. If the neighbour plans to go ahead, they will be doing so in breach of the covenant and you can take legal action.
ProblemNeighbours - 15-Jan-18 @ 10:41 AM
Need to add there will be a large extension to the house besides the garage. the garage is 13ft., one ft.higher than Germany's Berlin wallwhich caused so much destress in the 60s.SIT
ricky - 12-Jan-18 @ 3:35 AM
My neighbours have obtained planning permission on their part of a piece of land of which I bought half to build a large garage at 13ft. high whichwill block the view from my living room window and garden. there is a valid restrictive covenant which states there is to be no buildings or house extensions on the land, it was sold to both parties as amenity garden land 3 years ago.I had rented the land for 14 years. I will lose my visual amenties and my home will fall in value plus looking at a high brick wall from my home will make me ill. I am desperate, what can l do about it?. I have lived here nearly twenty years, the neighbours have lived there for just over 3 years.
Ricky - 12-Jan-18 @ 3:26 AM
I live in a terraced building and have made an access into a private field to act as a fire escape. I've been told to take the gate down as the owner is stating they don't want to give an11year access to their property. How do I stand
Sandy - 13-Dec-17 @ 6:04 PM
My neighbour has got planing permission to divide their house into 2 dwelings, however the deed for the current dweling shows a restrictive convenant which clearly states that the plot of land is not to be subdivided or no more than 1 house canbe erected. It will make my life much easier if they can't get 2 titles deeds as they won't be able to sell the house. So I won't have the hassle of the works. It's there any way that I can raise this issue? Thanks
Notoosure - 22-Nov-17 @ 9:27 PM
Cheeky - Your Question:
I have planning permission to put a static caravan on my drive why I renovate my house But it's a ex council house Do I need covenant consent Please help

Our Response:
Check your title deeds - they will details any covenants etc.
ProblemNeighbours - 7-Aug-17 @ 2:47 PM
I have planning permission to put a static caravan on my drive why I renovate my house But it's a ex council house Do I need covenant consent Please help
Cheeky - 4-Aug-17 @ 7:37 PM
Karma- Your Question:
We have a wooden enclosed porch (to our door - we are side entry) that has stood for 4 years and the builder has neve raised this as an issue. We have now marketed our property and sold and he has only just raised the restrictive issue. We had requested permission for a brick extension in the past and never had a clear answer but the porch was built by us 4 years ago. This is merely screwed to the external wall. Does this consitiute an alteration? Our solicitor said it wouldn't stand up in court as this is late down the line to start a complaint now after 4 years. We want our sale to run smoothly and are willing to purchase indemnity to protect the new owner. What would you suggest? Surely if this has never been raised until now he has had his chance. They are regularly at the site as have many rentals surrounding us. Thanks in advance

Our Response:
Sorry is this a new build? Was the porch not mentioned in a restrictive covenant when you purchased it? We don't really have enough information about your situation here sorry.
ProblemNeighbours - 27-Jun-17 @ 10:18 AM
We have a wooden enclosed porch (to our door - we are side entry) that has stood for 4 years and the builder has neve raised this as an issue. We have now marketed our property and sold and he has only just raised the restrictive issue. We had requested permission for a brick extension in the past and never had a clear answer but the porch was built by us 4 years ago. This is merely screwed to the external wall. Does this consitiute an alteration? Our solicitor said it wouldn't stand up in court as this is late down the line to start a complaint now after 4 years. We want our sale to run smoothly and are willing to purchase indemnity to protect the new owner. What would you suggest? Surely if this has never been raised until now he has had his chance. They are regularly at the site as have many rentals surrounding us. Thanks in advance
Karma - 24-Jun-17 @ 9:12 AM
Do - Your Question:
Some local developers have obtained planning permission on land next to my ground floor flat. The flats will be nice but block out all my sun and will prevent me having vehicle access to my front door. First I was not aware of the covenant and when my rights were discussed at the planning meeting I believed the developers claim that my rights were on foot only. However, I asked for evidence and they supplied me with an old covenant. It was hard to understand but once I got my head round it, I could see the on foot rights were for the property next to mine. My flat is entitled to all easements as have previously been enjoyed and so I declined the offer they had made which was not really a fair one and was unilaterally rescindable anyway if they sold the land. Therefore valueless as the day after I declined the offer I noticed the land was up for sale. The developers have started work on the clearance of the premises despite the land being sale agreed and there was some serious digging going on out the back. The developers will not comment now, they have not answered my letter asking them to confirm my rights. This is all above my understanding and I really need legal advice but I have emailed a few local solicitors and they have not returned my email. I am way out of my depth and would even feel better if I found out the covenant was unenforceable. As things stand I really don't know what to do for the best to preserve any rights I may have. Should I just wait and then try to enforce if the building goes ahead, which it looks like it may.

Our Response:
Emailing a solicitor will not usually elicit a response. You will need to make an appointment...shop around and look for one that does property law and, even better, offers a first half consultation free of charge. If you do this, you can actually take any documentation with you etc.
ProblemNeighbours - 27-Mar-17 @ 12:29 PM
Some local developers have obtained planning permission on land next to my ground floor flat. The flats will be nice but block out all my sun and will prevent me having vehicle access to my front door. First I was not aware of the covenant and when my rights were discussed at the planning meeting I believed the developers claim that my rights were on foot only. However, I asked for evidence and they supplied me with an old covenant. It was hard to understand but once I got my head round it, I could see the on foot rights were for the property next to mine. My flat is entitled to all easements as have previously been enjoyed and so I declined the offer they had made which was not really a fair one and was unilaterally rescindable anyway if they sold the land. Therefore valueless as the day after I declined the offer I noticed the land was up for sale. The developers have started work on the clearance of the premises despite the land being sale agreed and there was some serious digging going on out the back. The developers will not comment now, they have not answered my letter asking them to confirm my rights. This is all above my understanding and I really need legal advice but I have emailed a few local solicitors and they have not returned my email. I am way out of my depth and would even feel better if I found out the covenant was unenforceable. As things stand I really don't know what to do for the best to preserve any rights I may have. Should I just wait and then try to enforce if the building goes ahead, which it looks like it may.
Do - 25-Mar-17 @ 8:08 PM
Bif - Your Question:
My next door neighbour lives in a housing trust propertyAnd has grown his leylandi hedge now to a height of 4 mtrs. We do not get on with them at all.We have contacted the housing trust on numerous occasions and have even had a personal visit from them.But they just seem to be dragging their feet over this matter.Is there anything else that can speed up this process, because now they're not even returning my calls

Our Response:
It's not really the housing association's issue to deal with as usually tenants are required to undertake any garden maintenance. There are actually no laws specifically about tall trees in a neighbour's garden, but there is a section of the antisocial behaviour act that you might be able to use. Take a look at our guide here
ProblemNeighbours - 7-Feb-17 @ 2:14 PM
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