Restrictive Covenants on Freehold Properties Explained

Sarah Ryan, Head of Private Client
Author:
Sarah Ryan
Head of Property, Licensed Conveyancer
Date:
12/03/2020

A Restrictive Covenant is a rule in your property deeds that decides what you can do to a property or piece of land.

It consists of an agreement in a title deed, which restricts the use of the land or building in some way. This is usually in the interests of neighbours or the surrounding area.  

If you’ve purchased a property or piece of land, you should never be in the position of finding out about a Restrictive Covenant once you’ve bought the property as your Solicitor should have informed you about any Restrictive Covenants first.

Restrictive Covenants can be placed on new builds or older properties. A growing number of builders and property developers are using Restrictive Covenants which can prevent homeowners from altering their new homes without paying large fees. 

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Examples of Restrictive Covenants

These are some of the most common Restrictive Covenants:

  • Limiting uses of the land
  • Not making alterations to the property
  • Not using the property for business purposes

Depending on what the covenant says, you could be allowed to make alterations, but you may have to pay a fee to get consent.

How Can a Restrictive Covenant Affect Me?

Having restrictions on what you can do to your property or land can cause issues. Your Solicitor should have explained what the Restrictive Covenant means for you so you should have entered into the purchase with all the information you need to decide if you want to go ahead with the purchase or not.

Restrictive Covenants have been around for a long time. Period properties often feature Restrictive Covenants to make sure the building isn’t changed. It’s not there to be a burden, but to protect the design and use of the building.

More recently though, housing developers are using Restrictive Covenants to maintain an element of control over new homeowners with some covenants stopping homeowners from having pets, garden sheds and even washing lines unless they pay a fee and get consent.

Restrictive Covenants are not always a bad thing. A Restrictive Covenant could stop a neighbour from make changes to their property, which could be in your favour if those changes could impact the value of your home or land.

Some housing developers place Restrictive Covenants on their properties, which restricts who the property is sold to and for how much.

Can I Challenge a Restrictive Covenant?

Yes you can, as long as you can show that the Restrictive Covenant has no useful purpose any more. You can challenge it through the Lands Tribunal.

What Can a Solicitor Do to Help?

If you’re looking to buy or sell, we can help you to avoid breaching any restrictive covenants that may be in place.

For instance, when selling a property, you might be in breach of restrictive covenants if you have any work done, such as an extension that is built without the original developers consent.

A Conveyancing Solicitor can look closely over your property deeds and contract, highlight any Restrictive Covenants, and give you all your options if there is one in place.

You can then decide if you want to move forward with buying the property or if you want to try to challenge the Restrictive Covenant. You can consider options such as:

  • Negotiating the release of the Covenant
  • Apply to the Lands Tribunal
  • Making a payment to the owner to agree a release or amendment to the Covenant.

You do have options, so make sure you explore them fully before buying a property with a Restrictive Covenant.

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