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Covenants are a set of items which, essentially, set out what owners can, and indeed cannot, do with the land their property sits on. As they say on the tin, restrictive covenants are in place to restrict and prohibit certain actions being carried out at the property. The covenants are attached to the land itself and will run with the same, from owner to owner, as written entries on the property’s title deeds. 
 
Our property solicitors conduct a thorough review, within the pre-contract stage, of the title deeds and documents which cover a ream of information on the property. The covenants can cover a range of items, however, commonly place restrictions on the following, as a handful of examples: 
 
- The use of the land, stating that the owners are not to use the land for any trade or business, nor for the manufacture or sale of alcoholic goods; 
- Preventing homeowners from altering the land, including erecting any additional structures on the same; 
- Not to use, or permit to be used, the land for any purpose which may be, or become, a nuisance, annoyance or cause detriment to the adjoining landowners. 
 
See our blog on the different types of covenant which can affect your property by following the link below:  
 
 
The restrictive covenants are often put in place, at the time of construction, in order to preserve certain amenities and a set of standards for residents of a particular estate to conform to. Over time, as the properties and their owners change, the covenants remain in existence and affecting the land, therefore, are of extreme importance when considering a property purchase. 
The restrictive covenants are often put in place, at the time of construction, in order to preserve certain amenities and a set of standards for residents of a particular estate to conform to. Over time, as the properties and their owners change, the covenants remain in existence and affecting the land, therefore, are of extreme importance when considering a property purchase. 
 
Restrictive covenants are legally binding and must be adhered to, therefore, it is imperative that these issues are discussed in detail with your conveyancing solicitor. This is so that prospective purchasers know exactly what they are purchasing and how the same may be restricted. The covenants may be enforced by those who have the benefit of the particular restriction and, any action taken in respect of the same, would be upheld by the Court. This only reinforces the significance such conditions can have on a property and why they should be considered so carefully. 
One purchaser, Denise Sullivan, was unaware of restrictive covenants that were in place when she purchased a new build property, from Persimmon Homes. Sullivan later discovered that there were a number of covenants affecting the property, one of which was to incur her yearly costs of a rent charge, payable to the developer. 
 
Sullivan argued that the covenants were not made clear to her and that the reason she purchased a freehold property, and not leasehold, was to avoid such charges. She goes on to express that her ‘freehold is not worth the paper it is written on’. As an elderly woman, Sullivan worries that the charges incurred as part of the covenant may increase over time and, living from her pension, she may not be able to afford to keep up with the payments. 
 
As you can see, the discovery has left Denise in a predicament and state of worry. As illustrated in this case, the covenants can provide for essential information that the buyer needs to be aware of. In extreme cases, this could mean that they decide not to proceed with the purchase. 
With one recent case that our property solicitors in Preston dealt with, there was one covenant listed within the title documents as affecting the property. Our team reviewed the restriction and made the clients fully aware of the same, in order that they could make an informed decision on how to proceed. The particular covenant affecting the property stipulated that the owners were: 
 
‘not to keep pigs, poultry or any other animal other than the domestic cat and dog at the property’ 
 
Whilst, in this case, the covenant did not pose an issue to the prospective buyers, for some, this could have been a cause for concern. If the clients were moving in, along with their dozen ducks, pig and donkey, they would have been faced with a potential problem. Similarly, for purchasers intending to buy a property with a view to extending to allow room for future children, for example, may be restricted in doing so via the covenants on the title deeds. 
 
This then brings us to the possibility of having the covenants removed, if possible. This would need to be done via a mutual agreement which would be considered by, and put before, the Lands Tribunal. This, however, could make the conveyance a costly and time-consuming process. 
In addition, the enforceability of some covenants does tend to pose a question mark for some, however, not for our solicitors in Preston, who know exactly what they are looking for. Questions over enforceability may arise when assessing very old covenants. This is, usually, because the original land owner and/or builder/developer is no longer traceable. The wording of the covenants can also be, in some cases, ambiguous, which leads to question over how enforceable the same may be. 
 
Nevertheless, our aim, as your property solicitor, is to ensure you are fully protected from any costly investigations or enforcement actions for breaches of covenant in the future. This is why, from the very point of receiving the draft Contract papers, our conveyancing solicitors have restrictive covenants and their effects, on their mind. Sad, we know – but not as sad as our clients may be should they be lumbered with restrictive covenants they were unaware of. 
 
Restrictive covenants are not uncommon and affect the majority of properties our solicitors in Preston deal with. As part of our enquiries with the seller’s solicitor, we would always ensure that any covenants affecting the property have been fully complied with, to date. This helps avoid any issues over breaches of the covenants, which could go on to affect the new owners of the property, once the transaction is complete. 
 
If you are intending to purchase a property, and want to ensure you are protected from what may lie within the title deeds to the property, contact MG Legal today. Our specialist team of conveyancing solicitors will ensure you are aware all covenants within the property title and not only that, but make sure you understand their meaning, together with any potential obligations they may place upon you, as the new owner of the property. 
 
Get in touch today at property@mglegal.co.uk, and our team will be on hand to assist. 
 
MG Legal - Your Local Solicitors 
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