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Will your new property contain restrictions on use?

If you are looking for property on which to build a home or establish a development, you have many items on your checklist. You want land that is appropriate for sustaining improvements, is convenient to amenities and is zoned to meet your needs. However, it is also important that you investigate whether the purchase of the land will include any restrictive covenants.

Restrictive covenants are frequently part of a homeowners association agreement if you purchase a home in certain developments. You should receive a copy of those restrictions before you close on your home. However, some landowners include other restrictions that may not be evident unless you ask for them. It is wise to inquire about restrictive covenants before you sign any contracts.

What limitations will restrictive covenants make?

A restrictive covenant is not the same as zoning. While zoning laws are between you and the local government, restrictive covenants are private matters between you and the seller or developer. These restrictions are probably not negotiable, but you may have some room for compromise with a private seller. The purpose of restrictive covenants is often to standardize the appearance of the neighborhood and to keep property values high. Some common restrictions include the following:

  • Requiring structures to be set back a certain distance from the street
  • Prohibiting certain kinds of pets or animals on the property
  • Prohibiting commercial enterprises
  • Requiring certain trees, fences and other landscaping
  • Prohibiting certain types of homes, such as trailers, and limiting the size of your home
  • Restricting the construction of outbuildings or garages

It is not wise to assume that just because the property you want to purchase is not in a development that it is free from restrictive covenants. The owner may include restrictions allowing the use of the property for easements or rights-of way, such as if the property is subdivided from a larger piece of land.

If you are considering purchasing property that has restrictions on its use, you would be wise to seek the advice of an attorney before proceeding with the purchase. Property owners have certain legal limitations on the restrictions they can impose, and some of those limitations may protect your rights. Additionally, you do not want a property owner to hold you to restrictions that have expired. An attorney can help you navigate any complex issues with the purchase of land that may contain restrictive covenants.

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