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What is a Covenant on a Property?

Nicola Ryan

Written by

24th Apr 2023 (Last updated on 24th Apr 2023) 5 minute read

A property covenant is a legal obligation that buyers must adhere to when signing their contract. These provisions determine what an owner can and cannot do to the property and surrounding land once purchased. Breaking these rules will be viewed as a breach of contract and you could stand to lose your home by doing so.

These covenants can differ depending on various factors. These include the property type, location, and whether the property is freehold or leasehold. In this guide, we take you through everything you need to know about what a covenant on a property is.

  1. What are the Different Types of Covenants
  2. What are Common Covenants?
  3. How Do I Find Out What Covenants are on a Property?
  4. How Long Does a Covenant Last on a Property?
  5. Can I Remove a Covenant from my Property?
  6. Can You Sell a House with a Covenant?

What are the Different Types of Covenants

When purchasing a property, you will have to review the Deed of Covenant. These will determine what you can and can’t do to the property and land. The covenants specified in the deed can differ between individual dwellings.

There are two main types of covenants: positive and restrictive. Once the legal process is complete, the covenant agreement will be enforced and any breach will be faced with legal action.

Positive Covenants

Positive covenants are actions that the buyer agrees to on signing the contracts when purchasing a property. They typically relate to maintaining the property and land. In most cases, the land will refer to the back and front garden as well as any adjoining land with neighbouring properties.

These covenants are viewed as ways that the future owner can maintain or increase the value of the property.

These covenants are not guaranteed to be passed onto the new buyer, as they only affect the original landowner who agreed to it in the first place. However, if the buyer agrees to the positive covenant and signs their contract, this cannot be undone.

Buyers who are unsure of any positive covenants that may affect them should consult their solicitor.

Restrictive Covenants

Restrictive covenants dictate what the owner cannot do with the property or land. Reading through the restrictive covenants before proceeding is imperative. Those seeking planning permission to modify or build on the land will have to make sure they are not in breach of contract.

Leasehold properties tend to come with more restrictive covenants, especially if the buyer is not buying the freehold. If you do decide to sign the Deed of Covenant contract, you will be covered by covenant Indemnity Insurance.

These covenants are rules set between the owners and can be overruled or changed if a strong case has been brought forward.

Read more on Freehold vs Leasehold

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What are Common Covenants?

There are some covenants that you can expect to come across during your property search. While some covenants may not affect your circumstance, you may find that others do. Knowing the most common covenants will allow you to know what to expect.

Here are some common covenants you may come across:

Common Positive Covenants:

  • If the buyer builds a wall or fence within the boundary of the land, they must maintain it
  • The buyer must maintain any shared or communal areas such as a shared driveway

Common Restrictive Covenants:

  • The buyer cannot build any additional buildings or substantial structures on the land
  • The land cannot be used for commercial activities
  • The buyer cannot keep non-domestic animals on the land
  • Changes cannot be made to the property or the land

This list is not exhaustive, so it’s important to make sure that you examine your Deed of Covenant closely before signing. Your solicitor will be able to give you legal advice if you have any queries.

How Do I Find Out What Covenants are on a Property?

Covenants are typically part of the leasehold management pack when purchasing a property. However, they may also be part of the buying process for listed properties and conservation areas.

You’ll need to hire a conveyancer who can research whether there are any covenants on a property. It’s important to make sure that your conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor is regulated by a respected body. This includes the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) and CLC (Council for Licensed Conveyancers).

Compare My Move can connect you with up to 6 licensed conveyancers who operate in your area. Fill out the conveyancing comparison form and compare quotes to save money on your solicitor fees.

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How Long Does a Covenant Last on a Property?

A property covenant will apply for as long as the registered land exists. This is because they ‘run with the land’, meaning they will always be passed on between owners. Restrictive covenants are subject to changes if there is evidence that they have had a negative impact on the land and property value.

Restrictive covenants that have been allowed to stay will remain indefinite, even if the rules seem outdated. Existing provisions are obsolete if they negatively affect the neighbourhood or other circumstances. These include a loss of substantial value in the property and benefited land.

Can I Remove a Covenant from my Property?

This is dependent on the type of covenant you wish to remove. Positive covenants are not able to be removed from a property because they apply to the owner rather than the land.

On the other hand, a restrictive covenant can be removed. This is because they are tied to the land rather than the owner. Existing provisions can become outdated when being passed between owners. The circumstances for the original owner are likely to be extremely different to the current owner.

Those seeking to remove a restrictive covenant will have to do so through court action. Your solicitor will submit the case to the Lands Chamber of the Upper Tribunal (previously the Lands Tribunal). Your solicitor will be asked to provide proof and the Tribunal will decide whether they wish to change, remove, or keep the covenant.

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Can You Sell a House with a Covenant?

It is possible to sell a house with a covenant, but it can be difficult depending on what the covenant states. Selling a property with a covenant can prolong the conveyancing process. This is because some covenants may restrict the buyer from modifying the property or land.

Sellers may find it takes longer to sell their property, especially if it is a buyer’s market. This means you may have to accept a lower offer if you are wanting to sell as soon as possible

Any covenants can be found in the title document which is kept at the Land Registry.

Read more about the Conveyancing Process When Selling a House

Nicola Ryan

Written by Nicola Ryan

Nicola focusses on all things moving house at Compare My Move where she writes articles for the advice centre, guiding users through everything they need to know about moving house.

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