All About Protective Covenants and Restrictionsby John Price on 11/04/10
The main purpose of subdivision restrictions is to protect the
appearance, property values, and peace and quiet in a subdivision. In order to do this, the developer limits, or
restricts, what a property owner can do with his property. Most people don't like to be restricted, but
they want their neighbors restricted.
From a developer's standpoint it is a balancing act.
By way of example, I am going to explain the highlights of restrictions on one of our subdivisions, The Hollows at Frisco Hill. And I will explain our thinking behind some of those provisions. If you want to follow along with the original document, you can download it from Google Docs. The direct link is https://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B_Jjps9T4pqdNTIwNWJlMWMtNmE2My00YTdlLWI2OWMtMzYyNDMyZGRjZjhh&hl=en
We have used the same basic set for years, with modifications to fit specific circumstances. We are always walking a tight rope between protection and freedom.
Even though we wrote them, we are often asked, what they mean.
The only person who can really say what they mean is a judge. Restrictions are a private contract and the
enforcement takes place in Civil Court. Either
you or the property committee will have to sue in order to enforce them, but I
don't remember ever seeing it go nearly that far. A subdivision generally attracts like minded
people who want to follow the rules they agreed to. And small acreages, in particular attract
like minded people who want a little freedom and privacy. As you read these, please keep this in mind.
Paragraph 1. An architectural
control committee has to approve the building plans. We are
not trying to limit architectural creativity or tell anyone what style of home
to build, but trying to avoid box-like homes which take away from the beauty of
Paragraph 2. This
paragraph details the minimum house size and prohibits certain styles and
certain materials. Nowhere does it say
what kind of material you have to use, rather it spells out some specific
materials that cannot be used.
Paragraph 3. Each lot
must have enough off street parking so that parking on roads is limited. We like that country lane feel, and it is
lost if people park on the street.
Paragraph 4. No
Paragraph 5. Limits
on the types of animals kept on the property.
Paragraph 6. The use
of the land is limited to single family homes, except we do allow certain types
of in home business that do not disturb the neighbors. For example, the architect that designed my
home had his office in his home in a ritzy part of west St. Louis County. My wife and I visited him there once during a
yearlong project. I don't think his
neighbors cared and he would be welcome at The Hollows at Frisco Hill. More and more real estate agents work out of
their home and occasionally have to meet a client at their home. They would be welcome.
Paragraph 7. There is
a time limit on when you have to complete your home once you get your building
permit. I have seen very expensive homes
go up in 5 or 6 months, but everything has to fall into place. My home took a year. Our restrictions allow 20 months and
generally follow Jefferson County rules.
A building permit is good for a year and an extension for another 6
months is automatic. If not done in 18
months, the homeowner may find himself before a judge. We allowed 20 months with the intent that
seasonal issues might require more time for landscaping.
Paragraph 8. We
severely limit re-subdivision
Paragraph 9. It
prohibits front yard mechanics, storage of garbage and that sort of thing. The purpose is to keep the subdivision
Paragraph 10. It is a
little more on general appearance.
Paragraph 11. Stop
noisy 4 wheelers.
Paragraph 12. It is 1
and ½ pages designed to insure all sewer systems are properly maintained and
Paragraphs 13 through 17.
Those go into subdivision governance and assessments. We try to set the assessments at a reasonable
amount to do the job, but give power to the owners to change them if we
estimated wrong. There are two items in
paragraph 14 that might need some explanation.
Each lot gets two votes. This
provision was the result of a customer suggestion about 20 years ago. "I want to vote differently than my husband
and you do not provide for that." Now
there are two votes per lot. If you
live there you get two move votes per residence. People who actually live in the subdivision
have much more invested than someone thinking of building in a year or
Paragraphs 18 and 19.
They discuss easements necessary for utilities, etc.
Paragraph 20. It
explains who has standing to enforce the restrictions.
Paragraph 21. This
paragraph explains how the owners can change the restrictions should
circumstances change which the developer could not envision.
Paragraphs 22 through 25.
These are esoteric legalistic items to help make the entire document
Paragraph 26. This
one was very important to me. Remember
my comments on control versus freedom?
This paragraph explains the purpose of the architectural control
committee and hopefully forces them to allow reasonable freedom in design.
Paragraphs 27 through 30.
These paragraphs are more legal requirements and initial governance.
Appendix A is specifications for equipment required by the
Rock Creek Sewer District and is informational in nature.
I'm going to repeat myself, because I feel this is an
important point. My partners and I wrote these restrictions, but what do they
really mean? The only person who can
really say what they mean is a judge.
Please check out www.priceacreage.com
for information on various properties.
Most have restrictions, but there is the occasional nearly unrestricted
property. You can check out this and
other articles at http://www.priceacreage.com/info-blog.html.
Thanks for reading.