When most people purchase property, they expect that they will be able to do whatever they want with the property. However, many people are surprised when they learn that the property they intend to purchase comes with something called a “covenant.” What is a covenant and what does it mean for you if you are purchasing property that comes with a covenant?
What is a Property Covenant?
A property covenant tells you what you can and cannot do with your property. Covenants exist to limit the misuse of property so that the worth of the land can be maintained. Covenants are generally found in the property’s certificate of title or a separate document referenced by the certificate of title. An experienced real estate attorney, like our attorneys at M&A Law, can inform you about the covenant details, which are often quite complex.
What Are the Different Types of Property Covenants?
One of the most common types of property covenants is imposed by developers onto the lots they develop for the benefit of the entire development. These are alternately referred to as land covenants. Generally, these govern matters like how many buildings can be built on a lot, structural materials allowed for buildings, the size and shape of buildings, and permissible uses of land on which buildings are located. While this may sound very restrictive, the intent is to ensure that all homes built within the area are roughly the same quality, to ensure the economic health of the entire development. You can also have covenants imposed by homeowners’ associations, and covenants imposed by two separate parties, such as neighbors who mutually agree to dig and maintain a shared drainage ditch on their properties.
When is a Covenant Invalid?
To be valid, covenants must satisfy something known as the Statute of Frauds, which essentially prescribes a list of requirements which act as protections for future landowners. Covenants which satisfy the Statute of Frauds have the following characteristics:
- The covenant is in writing
- The original parties intended successors should be bound by the agreement
- Subsequent owner must have had notice of the covenant at the time of purchase
- The covenant must pertain to the use or enjoyment of the land
- The original parties shared some interest in the land independent of the covenant
- The successor to the original estate must hold the entire property in land held by the original party
It is essential you have an experienced real estate attorney assess your land for covenants and to ensure that those covenants are still valid. Otherwise, you may waste significant time and money down the road trying to determine how best to use your property.
Questions About Buying Property or a Covenant on Your Property?
Property law is complicated enough as it is, and when confusing covenant language is thrown into the mix you may not have any idea as to what you’re getting into. If you are looking to purchase land and either know about or are concerned that there may be restrictive covenants, do not hesitate to contact M&A Law Firm, PC, today. Our experienced real estate attorneys will provide you with expert legal analysis and advice to make sure your property investment is a good one.