What Buyers Should Know About Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions

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Are you planning to buy a condo, townhouse, or a home in a planned unit development? If so, be prepared to have to deal with covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs). In fact, any home that’s governed by a homeowners association (HOA) has their own set of CC&Rs that all residents must abide by.

They’re also referred to as ‘restrictive covenants’, though the term “CC&Rs” is used to incorporate current covenants as well as any potential future limitations that may be associated with the land in question.

What Exactly is the Purpose of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions?

Basically, CC&Rs are a set of rules that are put in place for two main reasons: to maintain a certain standard in a community and uphold the value of each property within it, and to ensure all owners enjoy their property without being bothered or offended by how other owners in the neighborhood use their properties.

In fact, communities with properly drafted and enforced CC&Rs tend to retain their value better than neighborhoods without such regulations. They also tend to be safer and more attractive. When homeowners are bound by specific covenants of their community, they are essentially protected from the potential that one deviant homeowner will drag the value of other properties down.

When you buy a home that is assigned a set of CC&Rs, you are essentially promising to adhere to these rules if they have been appropriately recorded on a deed conveying real property. This covenant has a legally binding effect and can therefore be lawfully enforced upon owners within the community.

That said, you can potentially face legal problems if you break any one of the rules as set forth by your community’s CC&Rs.

Are CC&Rs the Same as Zoning Laws?

Zoning regulations are government-enforced requirements on how people are allowed to use certain land, and they’re restricted in what they legally control. For instance, zoning laws do not regulate how owners of real estate can use their own properties. On the other hand, CC&Rs are restrictive covenants that are devised by planned communities and have the power to enforce more specific rules regarding how properties within a particular subdivision can be used.

Common Rules Within CC&Rs

Every set of CC&Rs will vary from one development to another, but most come with standard types of rules, including the following.

Permitted exterior colors – The color that you may be allowed to paint your home’s exterior may be restricted by the CC&Rs. That can also include your front door or garage door.

Minimum property standards – How your home’s surrounding property is maintained and decorated will likely be mandated by the rules included in the CC&Rs.

Types of fencing – Not only is the material and color of the fencing restricted, so is its height.

Vehicle parking – Many CC&Rs will have restrictions on the types of vehicles that may be parked on a property, such as RVs, boats, and oversized trucks.

Installation of sporting equipment – Some CC&Rs may not allow homeowners to install specific types of sporting equipment on their property, such as basketball nets.

Types of security lighting – Any extravagant lighting systems that impede on the enjoyment of surrounding neighbors will likely be restricted.

Building and space limitations – Structures that are erected on a property must meet specific rules regarding how much area they occupy and how close to the property line they are allowed to be built.

Non-residential use – Most CC&Rs prohibit any commercial uses of properties within a planned community.

Pet restrictions – Some CC&Rs do not allow homeowners to have any livestock on their properties, and if they do, there will be a limit to the number of animals that can be kept on the property.

Advice for Buyers

It’s common for homebuyers to be so enamored with certain features of a home that they often forget that there are specific rules that they have to abide by and specific restrictions that could potentially impact their enjoyability of their home. They may fall in love with the spacious gourmet kitchen or large backyard, for instance, but fail to realize that they might not be able to plant hedges between properties or park their RV on the driveway.

Sometimes buyers may not get full copies of the CC&Rs of the property they are purchasing until closing day. Yet buyers are bound by the CC&Rs that come with the property, whether or not they have had a chance to go over them in detail. Before you sign on the dotted line, you should make sure to read over all CC&Rs that impact the property and how it is lawfully to be used.

The Bottom Line

The whole point of restrictive covenants is to protect the value of your property as well as your best interests. But if they’re too restrictive, they can negatively affect your enjoyment of your home. Before you finalize a deal to purchase a home in a planned community, be sure to take the opportunity to read them over in great detail first. The obedience of all residents in a community for the good of all properties is often a positive thing, but make sure the specific rules of the community you’re buying into are ones you can live with.