land, building and property covenants

Property Covenants – All your questions answered.

Property covenants are a little known and talked about issue that can affect your property or building project. You may be looking to build the home of your dreams or buy an existing home with grand plans to change it to suit your needs, but if there is covenants in place, then they may hinder your grand plans.

Here are some of the common property covenant questions answered:

What are property covenants?

Covenants (also know as land covenants, estate covenants, restrictive covenants, building covenants or development control by-laws) are guidelines and/or restrictions placed over a property. They are basically rules that you must abide to when building or altering a property.

Are property covenants the same as the building codes?

No, the building codes are set by the Australian Government. Your dwelling must comply with  the building codes in order for it to be signed off as habitable. property covenants are guidelines put in place by the developer of the land, which you agree to abide by.

Why are covenants put in place?

Covenants are imposed to set a standard of building within a development. It is basically setting the tone for the estate or development ensuring that all houses are built to a similar quality.

When do covenants come into effect?

The property covenants are incorporated into the purchase contract of a house or land. When you sign the contract to purchase the property or land, you are signing to agree to abide by the covenants in place for that property.

What do covenants cover?

Property Covenants can cover a wide range of elements that affect your build. These are generally only external elements. Some covenant controls can be fairly straight forward while others can be more complex. Some elements that covenants can control include:

  • The size of the dwelling
  • The amount of cut and fill
  • The energy rating of the dwelling
  • Type of external materials used (such as brick, timber, cladding or metal sheeting)
  • Colours used externally
  • Articulation (how much the external walls and roof steps in, out, up or down)
  • The location of ancillary structures (clotheslines, air con units, bins etc)
  • Landscaping
  • Location and size of the driveway
  • Location and size of external living areas
  • Privacy control

What don’t covenants cover?

Property covenants generally only cover external elements, dwelling size and sustainability elements. If you want bright red internal walls and a bath in the shape of a swan, as long as it’s not specified in the property covenant, then go for it!

How long do covenants last and who enforces them?

It is the responsibility of the developer to monitor and enforce the property covenants they have set in place, and they last as long as the developer enforces them or up to 10 years. The responsibility of monitoring and enforcing covenants and by-laws can often be passed along to a body corporate to monitor and enforce the after the initial covenant period has expired.

How do covenants directly affect me?

If you have purchased within a covenant controlled area or are planning to build within a new development that has property covenants in place, then you are restricted to what you can and cannot do with your property based on the covenant guidelines. While this can be annoying if what you want to achieve does not meet the guidelines, it can also provide you with assurance that the properties around you will also be built to the same standard. Your neighbours are also restricted by these guidelines.

If you have invested considerable time, effort and money building a top quality home, the last thing you want is your neighbour banging up a low budget, minimal effort light weight structure that instantly devalues your property.

Do covenants still apply on resale?

This is a bit of a grey area. If the property covenants are still enforced by the developer  and the new land owner is aware of the covenants then they will likely need to abide by them. In cases such as these, there is often a community scheme or body corporate set up to oversee the covenants.

However, if the new owner is not made aware of the covenants and they have not specifically agreed to abide by the covenants, then there may be an argument that they do not need to comply. If you are not sure, then it’s best to speak with a lawyer.

Where do I find out if there are property covenants on my property?

The developer or land reseller will have copies of the covenants, or your solicitor will usually pick up if there are covenants in place when they do their initial checks and searches. The covenants will form part of your sale contract.

 

Until next time…

Katie Marshall - Chicks and Mortar

 

Chicks and Mortar – Property Smart Women

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15 thoughts on “Property Covenants – All your questions answered.

  1. S willett says:

    Looking to buy some land it has a cover ant on it from 1806 does this still apply and who inforses it thank you for your help as this is all new to me

    • Chicks and Mortar says:

      Covenants can be confusing if they are new to you. We will need more information on your situation before we can give you the right advice. Why not send us an email. 🙂

  2. T. H. Watkins says:

    A Covenant was put on land in front of my sons bungalow in 1975 when the bungalow was built in 1975 to prevent anyone building on it. My son owns this land as well, but may wish to sell it sometime. Does this still stand. The company was Vaynor developments of Birmingham which is now dissolved.

    • Chicks and Mortar says:

      Hi Tom,

      You would need to speak to the council or governing body controlling the land about what restrictions still remain on the land.

  3. Jay says:

    Just wondering why, how can my building covenant obviously be different to the rest of my street? I have a section that says no fences to be erected in the front yard whatsoever, and only wood material picket fencing to be used for the sides and back boundary fence…yet the house 2 doors up has a metal fenced front yard??

    • Chicks and Mortar says:

      This is one of the most common complaints I hear. It’s not uncommon to have different rules for different dwellings and it could be for numerous reasons. Your property may be in a more prominent position in the estate, You property may have been in a different stage (and under different covenant rules) to your neighbour. They may have received a relaxation from the developer for the fence, or they may be in breech of the covenant. The best way to find out is to speak to the developer direct and discuss with them your concerns.

  4. Trudy says:

    Hi Katie
    I was wondering about Fencing Restrictive covenants on properties over 20 years old?
    The council says they don’t inforce them & you said they only last for 10 yrs.
    So does this mean if I’ve bought a house that was built in 1986 & I want to fence the front yard to meet the Companion Animals Act, I’m able to & the neighbours who don’t want a fence can’t stop me?

    Many thanks for your articles they’re invaluable!!

    • Chicks and Mortar says:

      Hi Trudy,
      Thank you for your kind comments. I’m glad you find the articles helpful.

      It’s hard to give a definitive answer to your question without knowing the full details to your situation. Generally speaking, covenants do only last 10 years (but there can be exceptions to the rules). Based on the information you have provided, I think it is clear for you to build a fence. 🙂

  5. Valerie hendeeson says:

    Hi my house was built in 1895 to 1900. We have not been aware of any covenent when we purchased the house 21 years ago. We have sold the property and our purchasers Solicitors have insisted on indemnity insurance from us. All we have been told is that there is a covenant put in place about 1900 but know one knows what for. How do we find out about it and can the purchasers Solicitors demand this when this supposed covenant is over 100 years old

    • Chicks and Mortar says:

      Hi Valerie. These are questions are best answered by your own solicitor, who should have all the details relating to the property.

  6. Steve Anderson says:

    Myself and 2 other couples purchased a piece of land together to use in the summer. There is a covenant that says no trailers in public view. Next door to us there is a cottage with a trailer and 3 metal sea containers in full view.They have been there for 3-5 years. Now we have a developer (who also had a trailer on his property for a summer) who is threatening us with legal action because we put travel trailers on the property. Can he enforce the covenant even though it has already been broken before and broken by himself

    • Chicks and Mortar says:

      Hi Steve, Yes the developer can take steps to enforce a covenant if they believe there has been a breach. Prior relaxations and/or unenforced breaches could have an impact on any outcome to the situation.

  7. Jennifer parker says:

    Where do I go to find out if the covenants were placed on my property by the developer?

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