What are restrictive covenants?

restrictive covenants

The legal world is full of terms and complexities that can leave people feeling confused. Cutting through the jargon, we aim to demystify the legal process and ensure our clients are well-informed every step of the way.

If you are going through the process of buying a property or piece of land, you may have come across the term ‘restrictive covenants’.

Read on to find out what a restrictive covenant is, what it means for a property purchase and when to seek legal advice.

What is a restrictive covenant?

Put simply, a restrictive covenant is a clause written into the deeds of a property with the purpose of limiting what can be done with, and to, the property or land.

Why do restrictive covenants exist?

Restrictive covenants are often included into contracts as a way of protecting an area from development or other activity which could impact on the intended aesthetic of the area.

Types of restrictive covenants

There are a few different types of restrictive covenants to be aware of, common ones include clauses to prevent:

  • building/development
  • businesses being run from the land/property
  • the land being used for anything other than a specific purpose, i.e. agricultural use.

While often covering major building works, restrictive covenants can be in place to prohibit activity such as parking a caravan in the front of the property, keeping chickens in the garden and even installing a satellite dish.

Restrictive covenants and ex-local authority properties

Restrictive covenants are often in place on ex-local authority properties, however, recent challenges to covenant rulings may mean that property/land owners of ex-council properties could see covenants lifted. If you have an ex-council property and are bound by restrictive covenants, contact us to explore your options.

How long do restrictive covenants last?

The thing to note when it comes to restrictive covenants is that they are attached to the property or land and in theory the covenant could be enforceable for as long as the property/land exists.

However, times do change and if you have bought a property that has a restrictive covenant that you feel is no longer appropriate or valid, it may be possible to get it lifted. Through the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) it may be possible to remove or modify the restrictive covenant. The process however is unlikely to be quick and can be costly to pursue.

Do you need covenant insurance?

In some circumstances, it could be appropriate to take out restrictive covenant insurance. For example, if you have purchased land with the aim of building a development but a restrictive covenant prevents this, and you cannot trace the original owner of the deed, insurance could protect you if you decide to go ahead with the development and at a later date the restrictive covenant is enforced.

What happens if I break a restrictive covenant?

No matter how old, or out of touch a restrictive covenant may seem to be, in the eyes of the law the covenant is enforceable.

If you do breech the restrictive covenant, whether intentionally or unintentionally, the consequences can be costly. The likelihood is that you will be made to remove or undo whatever is in breech of the covenant and/or pay a fee.

When to seek legal advice

When purchasing a property, it is essential that any restrictive covenants are identified and that the exact nature of the restrictions are explained to you in full, to be sure you are aware of what you can and can’t do with the property/land.

Whether you are looking at buying a property with a restrictive clause, are in breech or looking into the possibility of getting a restrictive clause lifted, then contact us for plain-speaking advice and guidance.