Thursday, March 07, 2013

vague restrictive covenants


I had a few cases of vague restrictive covenants cross my desk today so I thought I'd share them with you.

In case you didn't know, restrictive covenants are rules created by a seller at some point in the history of the property that run with the land.  These are usually meant to preserve some desired character or atmosphere in the neighborhood.  The thing about restrictions is that they often reflect the values of the time in which they are created and can cause problems later, especially if they are vague.

Let's look at each restriction:
  • No building hereafter erected thereon shall be erected as or for or used or occupied as or for a public garage, manufacturing establishment, commercial business or any offensive or malodorous occupation or purpose, or to be used for any purpose other than that of a private dwelling house with or without private garage.
What to do about offensive or malodorous which are highly subjective words? What if you occupy yourself in some hobby that your neighbors find offensive but to you is lawful and acceptable on your own land? I have a neighbor who constantly makes noise in the garage poking around with machinery.  I have another neighbor who target shoots. I like to have campfires.  Perhaps the smoke is offensive to a neighbor. And, what to do about operating a web based business from your home? Could a neighbor force you to stop because of this restriction against commercial business? Even if you occupy the dwelling, is the mixed use of the home business a violation of the covenant?
  • No trailers or mobile homes shall be erected on said lot.
Interestingly, the dwelling sitting on this lot is a manufactured home which has a mobile home title that we are in the process of having surrendered to the state.  Could the neighbors have forced removal of this dwelling under the restrictive covenants?
  • Each of said lots is hereby designated as a residential lot with no structures to be erected thereon other than a one family dwelling, not less than 1600 square feet in area, exclusive of garage, breezeways, and porches, which said house and garage may be constructed of any recognized building material, but shall not have affixed thereto any imitation siding.
What is a recognized building material?  What the heck is imitation siding?  Can you imagine the problems neighbors could make for each other trying to sort out those restrictions?

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