The World of Restrictive Covenants

Deeds and title searches might seem like boring informational documents that lay out the block and lot number for the property and the mortgage history but here at Bergmann Law we’ve come across plenty of restrictive covenants in deeds and title commitments that either make you chuckle or immediately pick up the phone to the client. Recently chickens are a hot topic – some townships limit who can raise chickens, but we’ve also come across deed restrictions forbidding chicken coops – or restrictions limiting other animals (number of dogs allowed at a property, yes or no to pigs, horses, etc.) Just a few weeks ago I came across one restriction on a residential property banning it from being used as an OBGYN office which just made me wonder what caused that restriction in the first place.

But these more humorous restrictions are actually great examples of what every buyer should know and understand when they are buying a house: know your property use limitations. Now since it was a residential house and not a future OBGYN’s office, our Buyer wasn’t worried about that particular restriction, but for clients who already have chickens, or someone who has three dogs when their condo association only allows for two per house, these restrictions are really important to know and understand.

Another example from the recent news is a couple in Massachusetts who bought a property next to a golf course only to be shocked at how many golf balls were pelting their house. Of course this seems like a clear-cut case to complain to the golf course – until you find out there are restrictive covenants on their house giving the golf course the right to operate. Because of these covenants it will be up to the court to decide if the course operations are going above what is allowed or if the homeowners just need to accept this aspect of their property.

A jury awarded the owners damages, but the appellate court has kicked the case back for re-trial which means everyone will be paying for a second major trial on these covenants. The hardest part of the interview to read is where they admit they didn’t look into what living next to a golf course would be like before they built their dream house.

So, dear buyers, whether you love your chickens or hate the sound of golf carts please make sure you understand any use restrictions on your property and as always if you have any questions just give us a call.


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