How Restrictive Covenants Affect Land Use and Construction

Being unfamiliar with building rules and regulations such as restrictive covenants can lead to disaster when embarking on a project – and often a costly one. In this article, we’re explaining how restrictive covenants affect land use and construction.

When embarking on a building project, restrictive covenants on land dictate, in many cases, what you can and cannot do. Falling foul of these laws can carry hefty financial penalties as well as an order for the work to be reversed.

In this article, we’re explaining what restrictive covenants are and how they affect land use and construction.

What are restrictive covenants?

Restrictive Covenants are agreements made between two landowners in which one or both parties are prevented from making certain changes on their own land to avoid causing inconvenience to the other party. Once this agreement is made, it becomes part of the deeds of that land meaning that, thereafter, anybody who buys the land must adhere to the rules.

How can restrictive covenants affect land use and construction?

Home renovation

A restrictive covenant can affect land use and construction in a number of ways, and we’ll take a look at some of these in this section:

Pets and livestock

A restrictive covenant might prevent you from keeping pets and livestock such as chickens on your land and, in some cases, inside your property.

Commercial activity

A common restrictive covenant is one which prevents you from conducting any commercial activity on your land. This means that you will not be permitted to run a business of any kind from your property.

Land use

In some instances, a restrictive covenant may state that you are not permitted to build any kind of construction on certain parts of your land. This may, for example, prevent you from building a shed or outhouse on those sections of your property.

Building extensions

In many cases, a restrictive covenant will forbid you to extend your property beyond a specified limit. For example, you may not be allowed to add more than one dwelling to a block of flats. Similarly, you may not be able to add an extension to your property beyond a specified height.

Trees and plants

Bamboo trees

Some restrictive covenants prevent the planting or growing of trees and plants above a certain height – usually because this may obstruct light to the neighbouring property.

What happens if I ignore a restrictive covenant?

If you are found to be in breach of a restrictive covenant, the other landowner may be able to take you to court. If the court then rules in their favour, you may be fined a significant amount of money and/or be ordered to reverse the work which breaches the rules.

For example, if you have built an extension which breaches a restrictive covenant, a judge may order you to tear it down which, needless to say, can be an expensive and messy business.

Can I get around a restrictive covenant?

While there are no guarantees, there are a couple of things that you may be able to do if you wish to embark on a project which contravenes a restrictive covenant. These are:

Make a request

Your first plan of action should be to speak to your neighbour in order to ask their permission to complete your project. In some cases, your neighbour will not object and therefore you may go ahead with your project – however, you should always get this permission in writing in case of any issues in the future.

Lands Tribunal

In some instances, it may be possible to gain a declaration from the Lands Tribunal stating that the covenant is either invalid or should not reasonably be enforced. This will generally not be a quick process and making your application will cost around £100.

When first buying property or a piece of land, it is sometimes possible to apply to the Lands Tribunal to request that the restrictive covenant is either modified or cancelled altogether. In most cases, to do this you will need to present evidence that the proposed modification or discharge will not negatively impact the other party or that the covenant is no longer relevant or valid.

Indemnity insurance

When first buying the land or property, you may be able to obtain indemnity insurance which will protect you against any attempt to enforce the restrictive covenant. While this may be a possibility, you will need to seek the services of a specialist solicitor to make sure that this is a valid option. Having gained legal advice, you will then need to shop around to make sure that you’re getting the best insurance deal possible for your requirements.

Planning ahead

Buying a property or piece of land can be a complicated business, and there are lots of rules and regulations to be followed, including restrictive covenants. Your best bet is to read the deeds of the property or land extremely carefully before committing to the purchase.

If you then spot a problematic restrictive covenant, you should apply for a modification or cancellation through the Lands Tribunal for the best chance of being able to complete construction projects on your land either now or in the future.

Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a trained property professional. Be sure to consult a property professional if you’re seeking advice surrounding restrictive covenants. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.

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