Restrictive Covenants Questionnaire

A restrictive covenant is an agreement -- usually set forth in the deed -- that limits how you can and can't use your property, part of the larger category of covenants, conditions, and restrictions (or CC&Rs). Even if a particular covenant seems odd, such as required color schemes or prohibitions against vegetable gardens, by signing the deed you contractually agree to uphold these rules. Covenants also may be used between neighbors or otherwise among a smaller number of property owners; for instance, a home with a lake view may be restricted by how high the owners may build (such as adding another story or a higher roof) if it would block another neighbor's view.

Restrictive Covenants: Questions to Consider

For most people, a home is the biggest purchase of their lives. Before you make that investment, make sure you know the parameters of any restrictive covenants (or any other CC&Rs) to your new property. The following questionnaire will help guide you through the process of deciding whether a property's particular restrictive covenants are a match with your needs and values.

  • Are you restricted in the types of materials you may use to build a fence, chimney, addition, outbuilding, or roof?
  • What color are you allowed to paint your house?
  • Is day care allowed on the premises? Are there restrictions about swing sets or other children's play equipment?
  • Must you submit building plans to your municipality or development association for approval before you build?
  • Is there a height limitation imposed on your property in order to protect your neighbors' view?
  • Are you prohibited from storing "junk" in your yard? What is the definition of "junk"?
  • Do you need a permit before you add-on or re-roof?
  • Are you allowed to have a clothesline?
  • Is there a restriction regarding installation of air conditioning units?
  • If you want to install a pool, are you allowed to choose to put it above-ground or in-ground? If it is above-ground pool, are you required to surround it with a certain type of fence?
  • Are you allowed to dig a well for irrigation purposes?
  • Are you responsible for controlling weeds, mowing your lawn, and landscaping according to certain standards?
  • How many cats or dogs is too many? Are you allowed to keep pets other than cats and dogs?
  • Is your home office allowed? Are there restrictions about the kind of home-based business you may have?
  • When is a property considered "blighted"?
  • Are you prohibited from erecting signs in your yard, or are signs allowed within certain size and subject restrictions?
  • Is there a prohibition against storing motor vehicles on your property?
  • Is there a restriction governing antennas and satellite dishes?
  • Does a covenant restrict your right to cut down trees in your yard?
  • Is there a start-to-finish limit on the length of time of your construction project?
  • What restrictions are there, if any, on prefabricated, modular, motor, mobile, or manufactured housing?
  • What kind of outside window treatments are permitted or prohibited?
  • Are there any utility or maintenance assessments charged to your property?
  • What does your deed say about driveways, garages, and parking spaces?

Related Resources

Get a Free Legal Evaluation of Your Restrictive Covenant Concerns

When you buy a new property, you also may be inheriting existing restrictive covenants or other CC&Rs, which are limits placed on how you can and cannot use your property. This is often in connection with a homeowner's association or other agreement meant to ensure relative harmony in a shared location, but has the legal authority of a valid contract. If you have additional questions about your rights and obligations with respect to restrictive covenants, you should contact a legal professional. Get started today with a free legal evaluation from a local real estate attorney.

Next Steps

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