What are Restrictive Covenants and Who Do They Protect?
Over the past 11 years, I have had both buyers and sellers question restrictive covenants and who they protect, or punish, depending on the violation. It seems in our Cedar Rapids market that the condo association bylaws with their restrictive covenants have more "teeth" in them to enforce. But in a normal neighborhood of single family homes with NO homeowner association, it seems that restrictive covenants may be much more difficult to enforce. Especially if the development is completed and the builder or developer is no longer readily available.
For example, there is a neighborhood in Northeast Cedar Rapids that has a restrictive covenant that reads that homeowners will have no more than 2 dogs. Yet, there are many homeowners who have more than 2 dogs. As a buyer, if you have 3 dogs, you need to calculate the risk. If you live next door to someone that possesses 3 dogs themselves, you are unlikely to have an issue. However, if you live next to someone that hates dogs, they would be more likely to have an issue with you not following the restrictive covenants.
Restrictive covenants are ultimately put into place by the developer to protect the future homeowners. They restrict the builder from building a mansion or a small home in a development that may adversely affect the other home values in the neighborhood. As it is, no one wants to own the largest and most expensive home in the neighborhood. Everyone wants to feel like they are similar enough in value for resale purposes.
Restrictive covenants can also protect homeowners from things like someone running a business out of their home that may cause congestion or parking issues. Or to protect homeowners from someone that is running a puppy mill with dogs barking constantly. Or maybe from someone having a car on blocks in the yard covered by a tarp. Often, these restrictions will ensure that there are no boats, trailers, campers or RVs parked in the driveways or between the houses that would create an unsightly or obstructed view to anyone else.
Ultimately, these restrictive covenants can be very difficult to enforce. With no association, there is not a majority vote that can make the decision. Often, it will take many attempts to force another home owner to comply. Check with your local city government to see what you can do if there is someone that is breaking a rule that is adversely affecting your enjoyment of your home.