How To Handle Deed Restrictions

If you're like most new homeowners, you dream of the upgrades you'll make to your house once it's yours. Unfortunately, you may be prevented from making the changes you desire by deed restrictions. Here's more information about this problem and what you can do to resolve it.

Deed Restrictions Are Generational

Deed restrictions, also called restrictive covenants, are constraints put in place by property owners that prevent future owners from making changes to the home or land. For example, a developer may want to prevent homeowners from doing things that obscure the view for other owners in the area. Therefore, they may put restrictions on the deed that bar owners from expanding the home or putting other buildings (e.g. sheds) in certain places on the land.

Unfortunately, you may not learn about these restrictions until it's too late as the homeowner may not know about them if he or she never attempted to renovate the house. Sometimes the restrictions will show up in a title search and many times they'll be on the deed itself, however, so it's important to do you due diligence before finalizing the sale.

Dealing with Deed Restrictions

Unlike homeowner's association rules that can easily be overturned if enough homeowners object, deed restrictions are difficult to change. You typically have to petition the agency or group overseeing the covenants to get them changed. Information about the governing group can usually be found either on the deed itself or by obtaining a copy of the restrictions from your local courthouse.

It may be unnecessary to go through all that trouble, though, particularly if you own an older home. Some restrictions were put in place such a long time ago that the governing body enforcing the covenants goes defunct and ceases to exist. If that's the case, you may be able to safely ignore it or bypass it by getting permission from your neighbors.

If the governing body does exist and refuses to give you permission to make the changes you want, you can take the agency to court and request a judge set aside the covenants. You have to prove the restrictions are illegal, impractical, or show other people in the neighborhood have violated the restrictions without any consequence. If the judge agrees with you, he or she will invalidate the covenant and you'll be free to make the renovations to your home.

For more information about deed restrictions or help buying the right property for you, contact a real estate agent.