A covenant is a term you might hear when discussing a property during the conveyancing process. Covenants are a form of legal obligation that is binding on the owner of a property and passes from owner to owner whenever the property is sold. They form part of the deeds of a property and are recorded at HM Land Registry.
A covenant is usually established by the builder or original owner of a property and seeks to ensure that certain things happen or do not happen. For example, a covenant might be an obligation to paint the house regularly. A restrictive covenant would prevent you from painting it purple! These types of covenant might exist in for example an exclusive development of homes where the developer and indeed other residents wish to maintain a certain standard of the whole street in perpetuity.
Some covenants are more severe in their restrictions. For example, you may be prevented from parking a caravan or trade vehicle on your drive or not “trading” from your property, which could be difficult to define in practice. Flats often have a covenant stating that you must not create noise or in other ways be a nuisance to your neighbours, any of whom could file an injunction against you through the courts if you are in breach.
Of course, many of the covenants relating to older properties are unlikely to be problematic, unless of course you wish to graze sheep, display charms on a Sunday, or keep a horse inside your house! There have been examples where you are not permitted to change the name of a house or grow a certain type of plant in the garden but these are rare.
Your solicitor will advise if any covenants affecting a property you are buying is especially onerous but as with all these issues they need to be seen in a realistic context and it’s up to you to make the decision as to whether any covenant is acceptable or not, as it will be almost impossible to remove.
Neil Newstead, FARLA MNAEA
Chief Executive Officer