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Would we be made to buy a house with restrictive covenant attached?

(40 Posts)
Luckystar82 Tue 13-Jan-15 21:02:00

I'm buying a house and my solicitor has flagged it has a restrictive covenant! The sellers will know about it but failed to tell the EA. We faced stiff competition as it's a high value, fast moving market and secured a good price (due to our position).

Should we run a mile??!!

We're buying the original house = "land A". Garden is tiny and house has no real scope to extend (except possibly roof extension but there's no precedent on the street). There is no need to change the house externally. It is in keeping with all other properties and is lovely.

A few years ago a developer built another house in its garden = "land B" (which the developer rents out). There's a parcel of "retained land" = "land C" owned by said developer, at the back of the garden (beyond a path which A & B use for garden access).

Land C could be developed into studio flats or 1/2 small houses. It's tiny but given high value of land and pro-development council they will squeeze maximum properties on it!

The Covenant specifies.....

- We cannot carry out external alterations to the house without consent from developer who owns land B & C (other than construction of a conservatory).
- We cannot keep caravans, commercial vehicles, boats at property (don't know how they would fit in small drive!)
- We cannot object to any proposed development on land C to the council

Does anyone know if this is common? Should we worry about it? Will we find it difficult to sell? Should we run a mile?!

Luckystar82 Tue 13-Jan-15 21:02:52

*mad ... not made!

Luckystar82 Tue 13-Jan-15 21:04:45

P.s I checked with council and there are no planning applications (past or present) for land C

SoMuchForSubtlety Tue 13-Jan-15 21:15:49

You can get insurance against restrictive covenants being enforced - as far as I understand the premium will normally relate to how old the covenant is and therefore whether the beneficiary is likely to try to enforce it.

Talk to your solicitor about it. We have restrictive covenants on our land but they're quite old and relate to things like not burning lime on the property so our solicitor told us not to worry about them.

ThunderboltKid Tue 13-Jan-15 21:29:51

The first two are very common, the last I'm pretty sure is unenforceble. You can't promise not to do something that you don't yet know the details of. Your solicitor should be able to advise.

Given the situation with the land, and the wording of the covenant, you have to presume development will go ahead at some point in the future. Your objections may alter what is proposed or may not, but you should only proceed on the basis of that.

newstart15 Tue 13-Jan-15 21:34:51

I think you will have to weigh up what impact a development on Land C would make to your property - assume it could happen. Would it negatively impact the selling price if there were other houses/flats there, if so by how much?

The other conditions are less significant - I would personally not like the restriction on development but if you feel it's not possible then maybe that's ok.
The upshot is the developer gets to build houses and you can't object, this could affect the house value. You can't develop your property without his permission (as it may impact his plans) so no real opportunity to increase value. The risk is with you but if you get it at a great price maybe its still worth the risk.

AryaUnderfoot Tue 13-Jan-15 21:43:31

Restrictive covenants are very common. Among other things, we are not allowed to:

- keep chickens, pigs or other 'nuisance animals' at our property

- engage in illegal or immoral behaviour

Luckystar82 Tue 13-Jan-15 22:46:42

Thanks everyone for your helpful replies.

It's good to know that covenants are more common than I had realised. I agree covenant 1 (permission required for external changes) and 2 (storage of large vehicles) is not really a problem especially given the lack of development opportunities at the property. But say we wanted to change our front door would we have to seek permission? I'd be tempted not to bother asking if it wasn't a massive change or still in keeping with the street. The insurance option is v interesting - the covenant is only 10 years old though.

Covenant 3 is more concerning. Yes we noticed the land C on viewing and I said it would be earmarked for development. Anyone with a brain viewing would think same thing - so it must have affected its value. I'm ok with development on land C as long as it's not some monstrosity. Surely we have rights to light and air? I agree with previous poster that this covenant can't be enforceable. We could object to the council if the plans are inappropriate - how would the developer know? What could they do about it?

I'm not worried about living next to a potential building site as I'm used to it. I also don't mind being overlooked as long as it's not extreme (house is not currently overlooked). I just don't want something built that blocks out ALL the sun to our garden. Basically I want to have a says after the application is made. I would only object if there are unreasonable impacts on our light / privacy. I wouldn't be an arse about it as I actually think we need to be building more homes for people to live in!!

The house is a VERY good buy and our options are very limited due to local market conditions and our budget. We have also spent £1k on this already...although shouldn't let that impact on decision.

I think I will ask solicitor a specific question tomorrow about the enforceability of covenant 3. That's good advice- thanks smile

I love mumsnet!

Luckystar82 Tue 13-Jan-15 22:47:42

Ps there are some very funny convents mentioned here! Lime burning and illegal or immoral behaviour!!

VivaLeBeaver Tue 13-Jan-15 22:51:14

I'm not allowed to sell intoxicating liquor in my house. Which is a great disappointment.

RedandCurlyforNow Tue 13-Jan-15 22:51:15

Id worry about being unable to object to anything that could go ahead on land C.

Maybe I'm too cautious though. I don't know though, if the price reflects the fact that buyers would have some concerns about that,then that'd be different.

VivaLeBeaver Tue 13-Jan-15 22:53:36

The developer can't stop you objecting against proposals. You're only allowed to object on certain criteria anyway so if their proposals don't fall foul of them then you wouldn't have grounds for objection. And if their proposals do fall foul then the chances are they wouldn't get permission anyway.

Theas18 Tue 13-Jan-15 22:56:07

Some houses locally you can't hang washing on a Sunday ( Quaker area) it's not enforced now!

Good luck what ever you decide

OverAndAbove Wed 14-Jan-15 06:33:37

To be honest, neighbour objections hold very little weight in planning terms - a proposal either accords with planning policy (local and national) or it doesn't. I wouldn't worry about not being able to object.

I would though find out from the council what sort of development might be allowable on that land -ie would it just be housing or could it be something noisy or annoying, just to be on the safe side. Your solicitor can make enquiries or you can make them yourself

CateBlanket Wed 14-Jan-15 08:14:04

Let us know what your solicitor says, OP. Especially about any rights you might have to light/privacy. Would be interesting to know.

CadleCrap Wed 14-Jan-15 08:20:58

I am not allowed to keep livestock, but I can have 4 chickens!

Flingingmelon Wed 14-Jan-15 08:24:02

We had similar with our house last year and we just got the existing owners to pay for the relevant insurance. Get your solicitor to speak to their preferred insurance specialist and go from there.

wonkylegs Wed 14-Jan-15 08:28:06

I agree the 1st two are quite normal covenants the 3rd I think is unenforceable and at the very least easily circumvented.... Get every single friend and relative to object on whatever grounds you have concerns about. You don't have to be a neighbour to object. In theory you can object to any application anywhere you do not have to have an association with the property and if it has valid grounds under planning law then it will be counted.

The covenants on our property include the restriction of running any business from the property except Solicitor, architect, physician, barrister or apothecary.... Thankfully both DH & I are in the list especially as I run my practice from home!

ContentedSidewinder Wed 14-Jan-15 10:15:14

It would worry me, only from the planning point of view. I can't give too many details but my PIL had issues with a neighbour extending (not their next door neighbour but it affected them.)

So the rule is (IIRC) that a detached house can build a two storey extension X number of metres as long as the angle from the centre point of a habitable room, in this case a kitchen, was at 35 degree angle.

The neighbour wanted to go beyond this to make their new bedroom a decent size. Of course they couldn't... or could they? Yes they can, as long as they chopped the corner of the extension off. So they literally built out as far as they wanted but instead of having a 90 degree angle from the side wall to the back wall of the house, the wall angles outward to that 35 degrees.

You can try to argue over bearing, loss of privacy etc but seriously, anyone determined enough hires a planning consultant to get their plans through. My friend is an architect in London. Where she worked the planning office wouldn't allow a loft conversion. The client wanted one but he used his permitted development for a conservatory. All they did was take down the conservatory, do the loft conversion under permitted development and applied for planning permission to build the conservatory. And got it.

catslife Wed 14-Jan-15 11:48:15

The only thing that I can spot OP is the issue of access to land C. Is there another access point other than the footpath that A shares with B? Who actually owns the land this footpath is on the house owners or the developer? The Land registry would have this information.
There is an unusual restricitive covenant on our property too. We are not allowed to build our own steam engine!

Luckystar82 Wed 14-Jan-15 13:27:17

Right.... have an update for those who are interested.

I spoke to the solicitor's assistant today who said covenant 3 (not objecting to planning applications) is most unusual. Solicitor will ring me later to discuss.

I spoke to a planner at the council. He thinks covenant 3 is unenforceable. He also confirmed anyone can object - even someone who lives in China and all views are treated equally. There have been two planning apps for Land C and both were refused (even after appeal).

1st planning app was for 2 storey dwelling. Refused on grounds of (1) parking (2) ruining symmetrical layout of existing housing stock which is appealing (3) impact on our house and neighbours (5 mt high wall backing onto our small gardens) too cramped and not neighbourly (4) poor access for services

2nd planning app was for single storey dwelling. Had been designed to minimise impact on surroundings. Refused on grounds of (1) parking (2) ruining symmetrical layout of existing housing stock which is appealing (3) impact on light of neighbour's houses (4) too cramped for site (5) poor access for services

The planner said he can't imagine any property getting planning permission if the small single storey property got refused. He couldn't imagine what sort of dwelling what would get permission. I asked him about the change to the national planning framework, but he said even so, the Local Plan protects against this sort of inappropriate development.

This is good news! I'm wondering whether we should we try to buy the land from the developer if it is not developable?

Covenant 1 (seeking permission for external amendments) still worries me though, despite not being interested in extending the house. What if we want to change the front door or windows? Do we really need to get permission from the developer?!

The path is safeguarded. All users have equal rights to access and responsibilities for maintenance.

neepsandtatties Wed 14-Jan-15 15:29:58

If you do end up buying the land from the developer, as a condition of the deal, get those covenants lifted!

Luckystar82 Wed 14-Jan-15 15:37:46

Interesting to see that so many people have covenants on their properties.

I did not realise they were so common and the range of odd stipulations put on properties.

Thank you everyone for your helpful replies.

shovetheholly Wed 14-Jan-15 18:14:49

DH, who is a planning expert, says to get written advice from your solicitor. But his opinion would be that you have a right to participate in democratic processes (objecting to a planning application) that ought to trump the provisions of the covenant.

He also says to get legal advice on the definition of 'external alterations'.

molesbreath Wed 14-Jan-15 18:29:16

Not a legal bod - but I would have thought changing doors or windows would count as maintenance and wouldn't need approval

We live in a conservation area and when the residents wanted to lift grass area to provide extra parking (not me though) I phoned the council to see if they would object and weirdly they wouldn't as it could be considered an improvement ???

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