What are covenants?

By
Real Estate Broker/Owner with 406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, eXp Realty RRE-BRO-LIC-75443

If you are a first-time home buyer just starting out with a land or home search or are moving to our area from elsewhere, one of the questions you may ask is, "What are Covenants?"

 

The simplest answer is, covenants are regulations that come with a particular parcel of land. The official document that contains the regulations is called CC&Rs, or Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions. In the Kalispell area, some properties have covenants and some don't. This blog post will provide an overview of both types of properties.

 

Often, covenants are put in place when property is being subdivided for future new homes. The purpose is typically to make sure the development has a specific look and feel, and new home owners know what rules must be followed when living there. Sometimes covenants are put in place prior to selling a specific parcel of land or home, to make sure it's used as the original owner wished it to be used. Covenants could be extremely restrictive or just provide guidance for a few items.

 

All buyers, whether purchasing land or an existing home, must read their CCRs in detail to make sure they can live with the rules.  

 

So what kinds of things do covenants or regulations cover?

Following are some of the areas that might be covered by covenants.

 

Size of home: Often, specific guidance is made regarding the minimum size of a home. For example, the covenants may state "minimum requirement for living space is 1,800 square feet for a one story or 1,300 for main floor and 500 square foot for a two story." There are multiple variations to this type of requirement which could also address basements, various building styles, height of building, minimum requirements for garages and more.

 

Type of home: Typically, along with the requirements about size will be rules regarding what types of homes are NOT allowed. Usually this section indicates manufactured homes (mobile homes) are not permitted. Often they are not even allowed on a temporary basis while building a home.

 

Fencing: Do you have dreams of a white picket fence or wooden ranch fence surrounding your property? If yes, double check the rules! Fencing may not be allowed at all, or may need to be only a specific type and only in a specific area.

 

Architectural Review Board: Most documents with defined requirements about house size and style will require that you submit plans prior to starting any work. It's important to know if this is true because it could add additional building time to your schedule.

 

Vehicles: Covenants could also address what kinds of vehicles are prohibited from the property. For example, they could ban you from parking an RV anywhere on the property, or might only allow parking of an RV inside a garage/enclosed barn. Commercial vehicles such as tow trucks could also be prohibited. Or perhaps you won't be permitted to park boats or trailers on your property.

 

Animals: Many covenants address pets and livestock. If you have a desire to own a horse, for example, or sheeps, goats, pigs, or other animals, it's very important to check your CCRs. Some allow mostly everything, and some are very restrictive. For example, they may only allow one or two cats or dogs, for example. They also are usually very definitive about whether you can let the pets out in your yard or not.

 

Wells/City Water, Septic/Sewer: Covenants will also usually address whether wells and septic are allowed and/or required, or whether you will be using community or city water. If you desire your own utilities so you are in control of them, a community that won't allow them is one you may wish to stay away from.

 

Other: CCRs can add regulations to cover almost any aspect of life. For example, what kind of trees (and how many) must you plant? What kind of exterior lighting is permitted? How big do your house numbers need to be? Can you build a home with a metal roof? Are satellite dishes allowed? Can you park on the street? What about renting your home out as an AirBNB? What about target shooting in your backyard? This list is not all-inclusive. Covenants can address anything the person who developed the covenants was concerned about. They are intended to ensure all home owners know what quality of life they will have.

 

 

What are the pros or cons of purchasing property with no covenants?

There are also properties that do not have any covenants at all. At the time of the writing of this post, half of residential land listings have no covenants, and 35% of home listings have no covenants. So what make this type of land and/or home one a buyer might be interested in? There are both good and not so good aspects.

 

First, to start with the pros.

 

What are covenants? photo of horsesYou can build whatever you want, however you want, as long as it meets county requirements. For example, if you want to build a tiny 450 square foot home with a two story 40'x40' workshop and separate shed, you can. If you have enough room and would like to build four homes for your family members, go for it! Want to live in a manufactured home? Nothing is stopping you!

 

You can own whatever pets and/or livestock you want, again, as long as it meets county requirements. For example, Flathead County indicates you can have two horses per acre, five sheep per acre and 25 chickens per acre. As long as you follow those guidelines, you are free to own horses, cows, donkeys, sheep, goats, llamas, chickens, geese, fowl and more!

 

You can plant whatever you want. Do you want an acre for your vegetable garden? Or do you want to grow fruit trees? Do you want to remove some trees to enhance your view? It's your decision how to maintain your landscaping.

 

You can park whatever you want. Two RVs? A work truck and horse trailer? Your boat? ATV? Side-by-side? They are all welcome.

 

So the benefit of purchasing land or a home with no covenants is that you can use your property however you like, as long as you are within the county regulations (which are not too onerous).

 

And that is also the disadvantage of land or a home with no covenants. Because if you own land with no covenants, it's quite likely your neighbors have none either. Which means they can do whatever they want as well. And what they might want to do is to park 50 junk cars on their property, or build a bunch of structures right next to each other, or dump used tires all over their front lawn. And that's perfectly acceptable as well.  

 

Summary

So the answer to "What are Covenants?" is they are the requirements placed on a property which provide structure for a specific community. They could be bad or good, depending on your own needs. If you are interested in purchasing any property, though, the key is to make sure you read the entire CCR document carefully. I would suggest you do that before you even make an offer.

 

If you need help with purchasing land or a home, and would like someone who will encourage you to make sure that property is right for you, call me! 406-270-3667. Or email me at kat@thehousekat.com.

 

Originally published at thehousekat.com.

Posted by

Licensed Broker, CBR®

 

eXp Realty LLC

P.O. Box 10458

Kalispell, MT 59904

 

email: kat@thehousekat.com

www.thehousekat.com

 

406-270-3667 (MT)

 

facebook    Kat's Homes

 

 

Comments (49)

Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Kat:

Great educcation here! I suspect some buyers have no clue about CC&Rs (and perhaps some agents) and you've provided a terrific overview of them, and things to be aware of. It's certainly important to know about these as they ipact a piece of land before getting too far along in the process!

Jeff

Sep 18, 2021 05:27 PM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Exactly, Jeff Dowler, CRS and thank you!

Sep 18, 2021 06:01 PM
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Sep 18, 2021 06:17 PM
Wayne Martin
Wayne M Martin - Chicago, IL
Real Estate Broker - Retired

Good morning Kat. Covenants can be a security blanket or a nightmare depending on your point of view. One size does not fit all. Many prefer none at all. Enjoy your day.

Sep 19, 2021 05:24 AM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Fantastic explanation of covenants and restrictions, Kat...  you did a truly masterful job.

Sep 19, 2021 05:29 AM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Thank you very much for including this post, Kathy Streib !

I totally agree, Wayne Martin - one size definitely does not fit all!

Thank you so much Nina Hollander, Broker - that means a lot!

Sep 19, 2021 05:32 AM
Anna Banana Kruchten CRS, CRB, Phoenix Broker
HomeSmart Real Estate BR030809000 - Phoenix, AZ
602-380-4886

Wow Kat this is an excellent primer for home buyers - and newer agents that aren't sure of what covenants really are talking about.

Sep 19, 2021 03:06 PM
Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

That's interesting that you can build as many homes as you want if the land is large enough.  Take advantage of that while you still can!

Sep 19, 2021 04:12 PM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Thank you Anna Banana Kruchten CRS, CRB, Phoenix Broker !!

Absolutely, Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089 - if the land can support multiple homes, and there are no covenants, anything is game!

Sep 19, 2021 06:00 PM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

Such a complex topic made simple with your clear explanation

Sep 20, 2021 04:36 AM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Thank you Lise Howe !

Sep 20, 2021 04:40 AM
Wendy Rulnick
Rulnick Realty, Inc. - Destin, FL
"It's Wendy... It's Sold!"

Kat Palmiotti You've written the compendium on covenants. This is a go-to explanation that can be used by real estate agents around the country. You explain, simplify, and illustrate - to help others understand. Bravo!

Sep 20, 2021 04:29 PM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Thank you so much Wendy Rulnick -  I appreciate your comment!

Sep 20, 2021 06:34 PM
Anne Corbin
Long and Foster - Lake Anna - Spotsylvania, VA
Serving Lake Anna & Central Virginia

Yet another great post from you! I love your explanations. Keep them coming. Very informative.

Sep 22, 2021 08:10 AM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Thank you Anne Corbin !! I appreciate your comment!

 

Sep 22, 2021 06:11 PM
Fred Griffin Florida Real Estate
Fred Griffin Real Estate - Tallahassee, FL
Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker

Hi, Kat.

    Great tutorial. 

 

      I advise Buyers to see an attorney during the contingency period.  (Homeowner Association disclosure is a contingency in the contract per Florida Statute).

     If the covenants have not been enforced, they may be ruled moot, or null and void, by a court. 

 

    I know a neighborhood where the covenants read, "No tool sheds or outbuildings". When the association's architectural control committee denied a homeowner's request for a tool shed, he got a lawyer and took them to court, because they had previously waived that rule for a couple of the owners. 

     The Judge ruled that part of the covenants was not enforceable, because of the previous waivers.  The aggrieved neighbor built his shed; the HOA had to pay his lawyer plus court costs.  The result was hard feelings between neighbors, and red faces on the HOA directors.

Sep 23, 2021 07:27 PM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Hi Fred Griffin Florida Real Estate - Thanks for commenting! And yes, if something has been ignored, it's quite likely it's no longer enforceable.

Sep 24, 2021 04:40 AM
Jan Green
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Such a great post Kat!   Many ask that question when they receive the CC & R's even when I've told them to watch their email and expect them, sharing what they are about.  Seldom does anyone read them cover to cover, which feels a bit frustrating.

 

Seeing your photos reminds me of the Netflix series I'm watching, "Heartland."  I'm hooked!   Have a great week!

Sep 27, 2021 04:08 PM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Jan Green - I don't think I've ever seen that. I'm going to have to check it out...

Sep 27, 2021 06:41 PM
Jan Green

I'm hooked!

Sep 28, 2021 08:30 AM
Debe Maxwell, CRS
www.iCharlotteHomes.com | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
The right Charlotte REALTOR!

What a wonderful job you did on explaining this topic, Kat!

I'm picky about having buyers review those prior to submitting an Offer. I've discovered a couple of strange restrictions in recent years...

* The neighborhood does not allow ANY cars to be parked in the driveway or on the street except on a temporary basis! My clients had 3 cars and the home had a 2-car garage so, that eliminated them from purchasing this home.

* I sold a lot in an aero (fly-in) community. The buyers could stay in a rental while they built their home but, had no place to keep their plane. The neighborhood restrictions included one that they held fast to, even when asked for an exemption: The single family home had to be built FIRST on the property before the airplane hanger could be built. Of course there were restrictions for the home itself as well but, it was a huge inconvience to build the home first and find a place for storage while both buildings were being completed.

Oct 04, 2021 05:26 AM
Kat Palmiotti

How interesting Debe Maxwell, CRS !! Why in the world can't a car be parked in your OWN driveway? Too messy? Geez....


And the airplane was is also interesting. I can see how that would be a problem!

Oct 04, 2021 10:26 AM