What can you do about restrictive covenants?
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Once you have bought your property, you may think that you can do what you like with it, subject of course to planning permission and building control. However, there can be extra complications if there are restrictive covenants on your property, limiting or prohibiting you from doing certain activities.
What is a restrictive covenant?
A covenant is, put simply, a promise. A restrictive covenant is a promise which one party makes to another, which restricts what one of the parties can do. Restrictive covenants can cover a wide range of issues, and some examples are as follows:
- a promise not to extend your property;
- restrictions on the height of fences or other boundaries;
- promises not to keep livestock such as chickens or other poultry at the property;
- a promise not to keep a caravan in front of your property; and
- a promise not to use the property to run a business or trade.
There can also be restrictive covenants in leasehold properties, such as flats, including the following:
- promises not to cause any nuisance to your neighbours; or
- promises not to carry out certain alterations, such as the removal of internal walls.
Restrictive covenants can remain on title deeds, even though they are completely redundant, such as the way in which washing is hung out, or running the property as a public house.
Breaching a restrictive covenant
If you breach a restrictive covenant, your neighbour may be able to take court action against you.
A neighbour may be able to claim damages against you if you have caused a nuisance, or they may be able to force you to take down structures if there was a covenant on your property promising not to put any up.
What if you didn't know about the restrictive covenant?
Restrictive covenants can sometimes be buried in the small print of your property paperwork. However, it is no excuse to say that you didn't know about them if you have breached them.
However, when you bought your property, your conveyancing solicitor ought to have told you about any covenants over the property. If they did not, it is possible that you may have a claim against them for professional negligence.
For example, if there is a covenant over your property saying that you are not allowed to build up against a boundary and you do so, your neighbour could force you to take the structure down. Assuming that you had no prior knowledge of the covenant, you would then be able to make a claim against your conveyancing solicitor for the losses you suffered.
Can I get a restrictive covenant removed?
If there is a covenant on your property which is obsolete, you can make an application to the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) (which use to be known as the Lands Tribunal) asking for the covenant to be discharged or modified.
It is possible to insure against the possibility that you are in breach of a restrictive covenant, but this can be expensive. However, it is something that your conveyancing solicitor should consider with you.
How we can help
At Samuels Solicitors, based in Devon, we are experts at assisting neighbours with disputes about covenants. We will speak to you at the very start about how we can make our fees affordable to you, and may suggest one of our flexible funding options to you.
If you have a very strong case, we may be able to act for you under the terms of a conditional (no win no fee) agreement.
We will give an initial assessment of any matter involving restrictive covenants for free, and so you have nothing to lose. Contact us today for a free discussion with an expert.