Restrictive Covenants And Why They Are Used

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As a real estate agent in Columbia SC with over a decade of experience in land sales, I have learned how to avoid most of the issues that arise at the closing table prior to making an offer to purchase. When buying land or acreage you need to be informed of what you are getting into and how your property may be used in the future. It is common to have an unforeseen problem arise, but here are a few tips that may get you on the right track and questions to ask your real estate agent.

The first question that you should always ask when purchasing a real estate is “are there restrictive covenants that run with the property”. Restrictive Covenants, commonly referred to as ‘Restrictions’ or ‘Covenants’, and should be discovered in a title search. Always ask for a copy of these when you have decided to make an offer on a property. If you can not collect a copy prior to making your offer to purchase, consider having a contingency written into the offer to review these before you are locked into your purchase. Many contracts have an inspection period, make sure that you are covered in this section. If not, create an addendum requesting a time frame to review them. Restrictions are typically recorded at the county court house and are placed on a property to protect you as a homeowner. I use the word “protect” loosely because sometimes it will prohibit you from creating or maintaining a space that you desire. Common restrictive covenants found in my area are:

  • Setbacks of “X” feet from road and side lines- this is the area from which your foundation or porches will begin. Make sure that you have a site plan(provided by a surveyor) prior to construction and that your builder is aware of the distance. Usually there are sideline setbacks also. Beware of these when making an addition to your home or pouring your driveway.
  • No removal of trees that are “X” inches in diameter-I’ve seen people fined heavily for this and job site’s shut down. The intent is to keep mature growth in a neighborhood and preserve historic landscapes. If there are none in your covenants, you may want to check with the city and county too. In Blythewood SC, a landowner cut all of the trees on their property and was fined by the town.
  • No manufactured or mobile homes- Pretty self-explanatory but there is usually additional conditions that must be considered. Typically the tongue (the trailer hitch), axle, and wheels must be removed and the curtain wall must be installed. A curtain wall is the perimeter of the home below the structure. Masonry is becoming a standard in our area.
  • No Modular homes – Yes, there is a huge difference between Modular and Manufactured /Mobile Homes. Similarly, Modular homes are built in a controlled environment but are built to conform to traditional site built homes and usually can not tell the difference if you are driving through a neighborhood.
  • No unlicensed or inoperative vehicles- If you collect ‘hot rods’ or a ‘shade tree mechanic’ beware of this. The intent is to keep junk cars out of your subdivision.
  • One home per tract- Even on acreage. This may prohibit you from moving family members onto your property or building an in-law apartment.
  • No subdividing the property- Commonly used when a developer wants to keep large tracts in tact.
  • Architectural approval review prior to construction- Make sure that you seek out the neighborhood association ARB (Architectural Review Board) before you even think about closing the property. The last thing that you want is a mortgage payment on a home that you don’t love. Again, have a contingency in your offer for your plans to be reviewed.
  • Domestic animals allowed but not exceed “X” dogs “Y” cats – This very well may become a factor for pet owners. Some pets aren’t welcome into a traditional neighborhood. If you have over 2 pets read into this and make sure you are safe to bring your animals.
  • No above ground swimming pools- Summer is hot in South Carolina. This may be an issue in the future if you spend time outdoors.

Usually a percentage of landowners, or the developer can amend these restrictions. Most of the time you will find that restrictions renew after a given number of years. Keep in mind that laws change over the years and that the restrictive covenants must follow all local, county, city, state, and federal laws and must NOT violate RESPA laws.

Brian Hunt PhotoAbout Author
For more real estate tips please visit our Columbia SC Real Estate Blog or search Columbia SC MLS listings. We are a licensed real estate brokerage company in the Blythewood SC real estate market.

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