Restrictive Covenant Disputes
Restrictive covenants are contractual arrangements, typically in real estate deeds or leases, which limit the permissible or acceptable use of a property. Given that such covenants impair a property owner’s right to use and enjoy their property as they see fit, it should come as no surprise that restrictive covenant disputes often lead to protracted litigation. Disputes involving restrictive covenants usually arise when parties fail or refuse to follow the terms established by the covenants, or when a party seeks to use their property in a manner that conflicts with the terms of a restrictive covenant.
Generally speaking, restrictive covenants are usually created and imposed as part of a real estate subdivision to ensure that each subdivided parcel is subject to a uniform set of rules. In the event the rules are not followed, the restrictive covenants may allow neighboring property owners, who have similar covenants in their deeds, to legally enforce the terms of the covenant. Such restrictive covenants are routinely used in subdivisions and residential developments, where real estate developers impose restrictive covenants on the land to ensure the development has certain uses, rules and regulations, and common features.
Examples of fairly common restrictive covenants include provisions that restrict construction to single-family dwellings with no detached outbuildings, or restrictions that specify that any dwelling be constructed of certain materials. Other restrictive covenants may specify a certain architectural style, minimum square footage for dwellings, the number or type of animals that may be kept on the property, or the appearance of dwellings. Certain deed restrictions may also require a particular standard of maintenance, prohibit on-street parking, and restrict the posting of signs.
If a property owner violates a restrictive covenant, another person who is to benefit from the restrictive covenant, usually an adjoining property owner, may pursue legal action to enforce the restrictions.
Because of the many pitfalls that might accompany living on property encumbered by restrictive covenants, it is prudent for prospective homeowners or land purchasers to investigate for any potential restrictions and familiarize themselves with any covenants that may apply. A restrictive covenant can often contain specialized legal terms or legal language, so it is wise to seek the counsel of a real estate attorney to thoroughly review any applicable covenants or restrictions.
It may be the case that you have violated restrictive covenants without even realizing that your property is burdened by them. Or, you may believe that the restrictive covenants encumbering your property are unreasonable in scope, degree, and duration. Virginia law does impose limits on the types and degrees of restrictive covenants that can lawfully exist, so, if you are in a dispute about restrictive covenants, you may have available options and defenses available such as challenging the validity or enforceability of the restrictive covenant in question.
If you have a question about a deed restriction or if you are involved in a restrictive covenant dispute and are seeking experienced counsel, contact the real estate restrictive covenant attorneys at MartinWren, P.C. at 434-817-3100 and ask for John B. Simpson or Robert E. Byrne, Jr.