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Restrictive Covenants - What Are They and What to Consider

Posted 8 January 2018 by Helen Christie

What is a restrictive covenant and how much can it affect you and your property? Our guide explains all...

When buying a leasehold property, the term ‘restrictive covenant’ may crop up. Our guide will go through the details of a restrictive covenant, and what you need to look out for if you discover that your property has them.

What is a restrictive covenant?

A restrictive covenant is a clause in the deed that limits or restricts what the leaseholder can do with the property. It is an agreement between the owners of the land where one will restrict the use of the land in order to benefit another’s land. They could be seen as a form of private planning control. These restrictions are placed into the title deeds of the property.

How does it affect homebuyers?

If your discover that your new home has restrictive covenants, then it could limit things you are allowed to do to your property, for example it could mean that you cannot add an extension or keep animals on your land. Breaching a covenant can be a costly mistake, so it is important to know about restrictions in advance so you can protect yourself. Signing the contracts means the buying is effectively agreeing to abide by these restrictions.

How do you find out about restrictive covenants?

Most land is registered with HM Land Registry, and so you can apply to the Land Registry for a small fee to view your Title Plan and Registered Title. If there are any restrictive covenants which affect your property, these will be detailed in the section titled ‘Charges Register’.

What can restrictive covenants apply to?

​Restrictive covenants can apply to many things, but typically restrictions include:

  • Not to build any further properties on the land
  • Not to keep poultry or other animals on the land
  • Not to build fences or walls over a certain height

The restrictive covenants are tied to the land rather than a person, you may find that the rules detailed in the restrictive covenants have been set out for years.

Buyers of new builds tend to be subject to restrictive covenants which will be set out in the transfer.

Consequences of breaching a restrictive covenant

Breaching a restrictive covenant can lead to severe and costly consequences. Fines and injunctions are not uncommon penalties for those breaching the covenant, this is why it is so important to be properly advised on any covenants which may affect your property.

How can you modify or discharge restrictive covenants?

If you want to have any restrictions removed or changed, Section 84 of the Law of Property Act 1925 states that you can apply to the Upper Tribunal in England and Wales, or the Lands Tribunal in Northern Ireland.

The Tribunal may agree to changes or cancellations if it agrees that one or more of the requirements are present. These requirements are:

  • The restriction should be deemed obsolete because of changes in the character of the property or the neighbourhood or other circumstances of the case which the Upper Tribunal may deem material, the restriction ought to be deemed obsolete
  • The continuation of these restrictions would restrict reasonable use of the land for public or private purposes
  • The beneficiaries of the restriction have agreed to the cancellation or changes
  • The suggested changes will not affect those entitled to the benefit of the restriction
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