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<sigh> Talk to me about restrictive covenants....

(12 Posts)
ecuse Mon 29-Oct-12 14:41:15

The house we're purchasing has a restrictive covenant dating from 1901 which, amongst other things, says we cannot erect any building as 'a shop, warehouse, workshop or factory' and 'no trade or manufacture shall be carried on'. It's not clear to me whether this latter clause would also apply to working in the home.

My OH works from home fixing computers. Our plan was to put a garden shed/workshop at the bottom of the garden for him to work from. It sounds to me like this would breach the covenant. You could read it as saying he can't work anywhere in the house.

He's not a registered business, he's a sole trader working from home. The covenant was put in place in 1901 and I imagine they were trying to stop blacksmiths setting up shop! Really how big a deal is it if someone takes apart computers in a glorified shed at the end of the garden (what we propose to put up is within planning regs)?

I guess I need a gut feel for how much of a big deal these restrictive covenants are in real life. Has anyone come across them? Enforced against their neighbours? Been enforced against. Does anyone know if we could get a indemnity policy to insure us against the consequences of enforcement action (or can you only do this retrospectively?

Bottom line is, if we can't build him a workshop at the bottom of the garden then we are going to seriously question whether we want to buy the house. If it turns out he's restricted from even working inside the house (not ideal anyway as we want use of the bedroom) then we definitely can't buy it. It seems crazy to pull out of a purchase over this - for all we know, none of the neighbours know about it or give a fig. How would anyone go about enforcing this - would they have to sue us? How big a deal is it if we just ignore it and build anyway?


Anifrangapani Mon 29-Oct-12 16:42:50

Who put the covenant in place? It would be more of a problem if the person lives next door rather than it being a long defunct building co as the holder is the person who would enforce it.

NothingTraLaLa Mon 29-Oct-12 16:50:58

Ask your solicitor to do some digging to find out which land benefits from the covenant - it may not be obvious from the title register but if the seller still has their pre-registration deeds you might be able to find out. This will help with ascertaining risk. And then if all seems well, insure it. Your solicitor will get insurance policies for restrictive covenants all the time.

There is a procedure for removing obsolete covenants but it is a pain in the bum and insurance is much quicker.

ecuse Mon 29-Oct-12 17:02:30

Good point, thanks, the title deeds don't say who the covenant holder is so I'll ask my solicitor to dig.

ecuse Mon 29-Oct-12 17:14:08

On insurance - can we get the insurance and then go ahead and do something we know (or strongly suspect) to be prohibited and still expect it to pay out if we're enforced against...? That seems appealing but somewhat dodgy grin

MoreBeta Mon 29-Oct-12 17:22:11

My parents got an old restrictive covenant removed. I'm not sure how but apparently it is not difficult or expensive. Ask your solicitor.

NothingTraLaLa Mon 29-Oct-12 22:08:45

Insurance will cover whatever you ask the insurer to cover - at a price.

BlueStringPudding Mon 29-Oct-12 22:31:18

You could try downloading the neighbours' deeds from the land registry and see if the covenant is on their deeds. We have the benefit of a restrictive covenant on a field adjacent to us, and our advice has been is that it is very enforceable. It is very clearly mentioned in our deeds though. I think you can only get them removed if there is no beneficiary as originally stated, or possibly if any beneficiaries agree to it.

nocake Tue 30-Oct-12 07:55:45

There was a restrictive covenant on most of the houses on the road where I used to live. It was to prevent any development forward of the building line but as the original developer was long gone there was no-one to enforce it and lots of houses had front extensions.

HeinousHecate Tue 30-Oct-12 08:00:05

Looks like you can just have the covenant removed or get insurance

some info here

Stiffybyng Tue 30-Oct-12 08:10:46

My daughter's nursery had a covenant enforced against it by the neighbours. It overrode the planning permission that had been granted. You can apply to court to have a covenant removed but in this case it was contested and the cost was huge.

pinkdelight Tue 30-Oct-12 09:07:15

Don't know if it's the same case as Stiffy's, but I also know a nursery that was forced to close due to an archaic restrictive covenant which a group of neighbours chose to enforce. There was nothing the owners could do, even though it was clearly an ancient piece of legal twaddle. Now this was a case of nimbyism that you'd hope wouldn't apply to your case - who could object, or even know that your partner is repairing computers? But if his work involves any customers coming to the house and, say, parking anywhere that might bug other people, that's when it could become a problem.

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