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What Are Restrictive Covenants?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 13 Dec 2017 | 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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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
My next door neighbour lives in a housing trust property And 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
Bif - 6-Feb-17 @ 4:47 PM
We own one of several houses where the surrounding facilities (walls, tarmac driveway,flower beds etc.) of the estate are managed by a management company, where each house has 1 director on the said company. There are deeds of covenant applying to the communal facilities & one of them forbids any parking of vehicles on the drveway area, but all of us do park on it from time to time & all agree there is no problem in doing this, so we would like to modify the existing covenant to allow this. How can we bring about this change to the covenant in the most efficient way & who do we need to inform ?
Martin - 5-Feb-17 @ 12:17 AM
My house and next door are on an old site split for developement back in the early '80s.There is a covenant stating that only 1 residential property maybe build on the land.Next door has sold and have planning permission to squeeze 5 houses on the site.Can I prevent this development citing the covenant? "The Purchasers with the intent and so as to bind so far as is practicable the land hereby conveyed into whosoever hands the same may come and to benefit and protect the Vendors adjoining land to the north and east hereby jointly and severally covenant with the Vendors that neither the Purchasers nor their successors in title will at any time hereafter:- (a) erect or permit or suffer to be erected on the land hereby conveyed more than one dwellinghouse or single family occupation nor (b) ........
Baaarb - 17-Jan-17 @ 8:00 PM
if a restrictive covenant dates back to when the houses were originally built - 1905 in my house's case - would this still apply
maude - 8-Jan-17 @ 11:18 PM
I have a "freehold" flat, the top flat of 3. The other 2 have not signed the covenants so are saying they don't have to pay for roof repairs . One owner has a mortgage, the other has no lending. Is there anything I can do to recover costs from them ?
Tiggey - 8-Dec-16 @ 12:37 PM
We bought a flat within houses with covenants. There was a fund put in placefor works needing doing, is, shared gutters etc. But had stopped being paid beforewe lived there. This had broken down, because of a dispute(verbal ), between 2 peopleover costs and since then thefund is no longer in operation. The persons concerned willstill not co- operate, despite the problem being at least 10 years ago. All concerned did sign the covenants. Now the flats and houses can not be sold. As people can't get a mortgage with out there being this fund in place. No works needing doing can be payed for, as no one will pay a portion, unless the other 2 persons pay. What can we do.
Vampy - 13-Nov-16 @ 8:42 AM
Hi We purchased our bungalow 2 years ago It used to belong to one family who owned the neighbouring 2 houses Back in 1960s the land was split into 3,2 houses and our bungalow All now been sold on to 3 different people (including myself) 12/13/14 There is a covenant on the drains which belong to me (14) but serve both 12/13 The covenant is for shared usage/expense/maintenance between us all And NO other drains to be added. When we moved in No12 has sold a large part of his garden to a builder who has now built a 5 bed house, We thought absolutely nothing about this, until at a social event hosted by the builder, he commented on another project he was doing elsewhere about hassle he was having with drains, and how this build was so easy as he tapped into NO 12. I'm no thinking no12 has breached the covenant between us 12/13/14 ?? If so, what do we do?
Jdkjh1 - 11-Nov-16 @ 3:04 PM
I live in a semi-detached house, the other house next door, we have an alley way running between our houses to our back gardens.They have an extension on the back of their house which now makes the wall of their house go beyond the original land boundry of the shared alley way. We recently did a similar extension so now both our houses end and the same point beyond the shared alley way boundry. Our neighbour has refused to move her gate and fence since our extension in order to has access from the alley way into our back gardens.It is not practical as far as I am concerned. Has there ever been, and is it possible to request an appeal to have the alley way boundary updated to reach the end of the now extended houses?The original boundary does not make sense any more and we are being left with a gate at the end of the alley way which can not use and get through! I look forward to hearing from you Helen
HELEN - 4-Nov-16 @ 11:54 AM
I am second owner on a new build estate with covenant for open plan front gardens. The first owner purchased the front/side garden which is directly next to the walled side/back garden. Acess to this is behind my house through a communial car park. (i have a dog no kids but this is annoying and dangerous). There is no acess to the garden via the housr as is a first floor coach house. I wanted to knock the wall down and create a bigger garden since this ridiculous layout for some reason was not revised when they puchased this extra bit of land. My issue is where does a back garden begin and front garden begin and my covenant says no fence or hedge shall be erected. The builders put in a hedge and neighbours have started planting fir trees as a hedge too. We have a management company for the estate but some areas are still being handed over by house builders. Who do I go to to appeal and see if anything can be ammended with garden layout? I have already added a driveway to front garden but neighbours love it.
Aimez_1 - 31-Oct-16 @ 7:37 PM
I am second owner on a new build estate with covenant for open plan front gardens. The first owner purchased the front/side garden which is directly next to the walled side/back garden. Acess to this is behind my house through a communial car park. (i have a dog no kids but this is annoying and dangerous). There is no acess to the garden via the housr as is a first floor coach house. I wanted to knock the wall down and create a bigger garden since this ridiculous layout for some reason was not revised when they puchased this extra bit of land. My issue is where does a back garden begin and front garden begin and my covenant says no fence or hedge shall be erected. The builders put in a hedge and neighbours have started planting fir trees as a hedge too. We have a management company for the estate but some areas are still being handed over by house builders. Who do I go to to appeal and see if anything can be ammended with garden layout? I have already added a driveway to front garden but neighbours love it.
Aimez_1 - 29-Oct-16 @ 5:06 PM
I am second owner on a new build estate with covenant for open plan front gardens. The first owner purchased the front/side garden which is directly next to the walled side/back garden. Acess to this is behind my house through a communial car park. (i have a dog no kids but this is annoying and dangerous). There is no acess to the garden via the housr as is a first floor coach house. I wanted to knock the wall down and create a bigger garden since this ridiculous layout for some reason was not revised when they puchased this extra bit of land. My issue is where does a back garden begin and front garden begin and my covenant says no fence or hedge shall be erected. The builders put in a hedge and neighbours have started planting fir trees as a hedge too. We have a management company for the estate but some areas are still being handed over by house builders. Who do I go to to appeal and see if anything can be ammended with garden layout? I have already added a driveway to front garden but neighbours love it.
Aimez_1 - 29-Oct-16 @ 9:48 AM
Hi. I am looking to buy an ex council house which the registry says has a restriction on 'brick-making' and removal of soul other than to level the garden. This was 1948. Is brick making literal or is it an old term for brick building? ( we want to extend it)
Billie - 27-Oct-16 @ 2:28 PM
railingswanted - Your Question:
So we have an extension built many years ago 2 home owners ago, not us. We were told railings on the roof were rejected due to a neighbour complaint. This was at least 10 years or more ago and the new owner next doors says it's in his deeds but it's not in ours saying we can't. We need them for safety. Anything we can do?

Our Response:
What does the new owner say is in his deeds? We think the four year immunity rule will appy regarding the planning permission, so that's probably not an issue - but you might need to check with your local planning department to be sure. If there is no restrictive covenant in your deeds then you can assume it didn't apply to you property.
ProblemNeighbours - 25-Oct-16 @ 11:26 AM
So we have an extension built many years ago 2 home owners ago, not us. We were told railings on the roof were rejected due to a neighbour complaint. This was at least 10 years or more ago and the new owner next doors says it's in his deeds but it's not in ours saying we can't.We need them for safety. Anything we can do?
railingswanted - 24-Oct-16 @ 12:54 AM
Rich Kent - Your Question:
Hi Hope you can help.In the process of purchasing a convenience store that has a covanent which stops the sale of alcohol.The shop is in a parade which consists of a off licence who has always threatened legal action to anyone who tries to have the 40 year covanent removed.The original developer has crease trading and has passed away a few years ago.How can I go about having this covanent lifted.Thanks in advance

Our Response:
To get a covenant lifted you will have to apply for a court order. The courts will consider all the factors associated with the covenant (including the existence of any remaining beneficiaries of the covenant) and make their decision based on that.
ProblemNeighbours - 20-Oct-16 @ 2:24 PM
Hi Hope you can help. In the process of purchasing a convenience store that has a covanent which stops the sale of alcohol. The shop is in a parade which consists of a off licence who has always threatened legal action to anyone who tries to have the 40 year covanent removed. The original developer has crease trading and has passed away a few years ago. How can I go about having this covanent lifted. Thanks in advance
Rich Kent - 18-Oct-16 @ 8:01 PM
barry - Your Question:
We have a restrictive covenant that states we cannot build a wood or iron bungalow on our property.We currently have a shed and all our adjoining neighbours have sheds of various sizes and numbers.We are wanting to replace our shed with a larger cabin ( it will not require planning permission ), but what in conveyancing terms constitutes a bungalow ?

Our Response:
What a strange thing to have in a restrictive covenant. We're assuming it refers to living accommodation? So you could install a garden building or summerhouse without breaking the covenant. You should get a solicitor to take a detailed look at the terms of the covenant and interpret it for you.
ProblemNeighbours - 18-Oct-16 @ 12:41 PM
We have a restrictive covenant that states we cannot build a wood or iron bungalow on our property. We currently have a shed and all our adjoining neighbours have sheds of various sizes and numbers. We are wanting to replace our shed with a larger cabin ( it will not require planning permission ), but what in conveyancing terms constitutes a bungalow ?
barry - 17-Oct-16 @ 10:04 AM
Monster man. - Your Question:
Hi, on my title deeds there is a land title restriction on keeping chickens,pigeons and birds of prey, and appear as per the outline estate drawings to cover all properties in my near area. A neighbour to the rear of my property has just installed some noisey chickens. Who can get them removed, not only for the noise content but also health issues and the attraction of vermin

Our Response:
Check with your local council to see if there are any locally imposed restrictions of poultry keeping or whether the council had anything to do with the initial restrictive covenant - if so they should be able to help. If not and to rely on the terms of the covenant in order to prevent this neighbour from keeping chickens, you will need to take legal/court action.
ProblemNeighbours - 29-Sep-16 @ 11:00 AM
Hi, on my title deeds there is a land title restriction on keeping chickens,pigeons and birds of prey, and appear as per the outline estate drawings to cover all properties in my near area. A neighbour to the rear of my property has just installed some noisey chickens. Who can get them removed, not only for the noise content but also health issues and the attraction of vermin
Monster man. - 28-Sep-16 @ 11:39 AM
The new build house we have bought has a restriction in the covenants stating we can't put a satellite dish on the house. All the older houses built on the estate do have dishes put up as the area has extremely poor telephone and broadband signals and Virgin media does not cover the area at all. What repercussions would there be if we just put one up
Musicmaniax - 10-Sep-16 @ 2:32 PM
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