Don’t think because you buy a block you can do what you like on it! There is often a restrictive covenant on land. That is “an agreement between land owners which may restrict how land may be used and developed“.
The two parties to a covenant are:
- The party that owns the land burdened
- The party/ies that owns the land benefited by the covenant, which is likely to be either initially the developer, or the original landowner. On a long established estate the party benefited will typically become your neighbours. For example if there is a restriction on height of buildings your neighbour benefits from not being overlooked. In this case if you want to extend upwards you will need your neighbour’s approval as well as planning permits.
There are many reasons Covenants are used, including to:
- Protect views from being built up – most likely to be the original landowner if they still live adjacent to the site.
- Protect the level and type of finish of all dwellings and boundaries within an estate – most likely to be the developer who wants the estate to look attractive to future land purchasers.
- Protect the type of use that takes place on a site. No car repair and animal breeding are common.
- Protect the level of development – single dwelling covenants are common, avoid if you may want to build a granny flat in the future.
The presence of a Covenant may only be indicated in ‘The Copy of Title’, or it may be included with your Section 32 or Vendor’s Statement. You need to be sure what restrictions are imposed before you buy.
What can you do about a Restrictive Covenant?
If you find a Restrictive Covenant on title, there are few courses of action you can take.
- Decide if the clauses are of benefit to you as they are likely to place similar restrictions on your neighbours.
- Pursue the removal of the covenant through legal channels which could be costly and difficult.
- Read carefully for possible ’sunset/expiry’ clauses on your covenant.
- Don’t buy if you don’t like the covenant, Just look elsewhere!