Phillips & Angley

Are you considering property with a restrictive covenant?

You may have had your eye on a piece of property for some time. Perhaps you saw that a Massachusetts developer had purchased land and was subdividing it for residential or commercial use, and you were anxious to claim a particular plot for your purposes.

Along with the many practical and legal considerations to make during this time, you will want to understand any restrictive covenants the developer has placed on the land. Developers often establish restrictive covenants for the good of every landowner in the development, but these restrictions may prevent you from carrying out some of your plans.

What restrictions can a developer make?

Restrictive covenants describe ways in which you may and may not use your property. Typically, everyone who purchases property within a development agrees to this same set of rules. The purpose is to create a standard within the development, which often keeps property values steady and allows a certain amount of control over the use of the land. Some common examples of restrictions include the following and others:

  • How large a home or building you may construct on your land
  • Where on the property you may build, such as the distance from the street or between your building and your neighbor's
  • What kind and how many animals you may keep on the property, if any
  • Whether your property includes easements, such as utilities, public access roads or paths
  • Whether you may erect a fence around your property and, if so, the type and height of the fence
  • Whether you can establish or run a business in a residential property
  • Prohibitions against repairing or storing vehicles on the property, such as RVs, commercial vehicles or boats
  • Regulations against clutter, requiring specified building maintenance or mandating lawn care

The developer of your property may have more stringent rules, such as restricting the colors you may paint your house or building, dictating the kind of window dressings you may use, and limiting the choices of decorations for holidays and other occasions.

Only in a development?

Restrictive covenants are not limited to developments. You may be considering a property that does not have a developer to provide you with a copy of the covenant before you make your purchasing decision. It is wise to access the deed to any property at the local courthouse to learn of any potential restrictions on the land use before you make an offer to buy.

Additionally, it is always a good idea to have a legal advocate when you are making a major purchase such as property. An attorney can review the documents, deeds and covenants to ensure the protection of your rights.

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