In property or land, a restrictive covenant is a promise not to do certain things with that property or land for the benefit of other land. They therefore amount to a restriction on the use of a property.
Historically, under English Law, a covenant was distinguished from an ordinary contract by the presence of a seal; the seal reflected a solemn promise.
It is important to know what restrictive covenants affect your property or the property you are potentially purchasing as they may affect your use or future use of it.
Restrictive covenants “run with the land” which means they bind the land/property, so even if a person was to sell the property, the restrictive covenants will continue to have an effect and therefore bind the new owner of the property.
Restrictive covenants also continue to have effect even if they have been made many years ago and appear obsolete.
An example of an old covenant that I have recently come across in practice is one that was imposed on a property in 1851, which read “Not to be used as a Quoiting Ground”. I was somewhat perplexed at this covenant, as it wasn’t something I’d seen before, but thanks to the wonders of Google, I soon learnt that ‘Quoits’ is a traditional game involving the throwing of rings over a set distance, usually to land over or near a spike. The game was popular in England, especially northern England, in the 19th Century, hence its presence in a Deed from 1851.
Although this example appears obsolete, it still binds the property in question and will continue to do so.
More modern examples of restrictive covenants that I frequently see include:
- No trade or business to be carried out at the property.
- No structural alterations or extensions without consent.
- No caravans/boats/commercial vehicles to be kept at the property.
- Not to keep chickens or other domestic poultry.
Some restrictive covenants are imposed to guarantee uniformity, such as all front doors should remain painted black on no other colour, whilst others I regularly see in apartment Leases are covenants such as ‘no animals or pets to be kept at the property’ and ‘floors must be covered in carpets’.
Any restrictive covenants effecting the property will be contained in the Charges Register of the Title to the property (and if the Property is Leasehold, will appear in the Lease) and it is our role as solicitor to check the covenants, check for any breaches and report to the client.
If a person chooses to ignore a restrictive covenant, it can be enforced by the Court and they could potentially face a claim in damages for the breach in addition to an injunction forbidding the land owner to break the covenant.
The law relating to restrictive covenants is extremely complex. If you require further advice regarding restrictive covenants, or other property matters, please get in touch on 01625 523988 or firstname.lastname@example.org