Restrictive covenants highlight the need to choose an attentive conveyancing solicitor

September 16, 2021

The possibility of finding awkward restrictive covenants hidden away in the deeds of your house illustrates the need to bring in a conveyancer with high attention to detail and good communication skills, according to a solicitor at a leading Cheshire law firm.

While many such regulations might seem like relics of a bygone era, there are occasions when they can become a real headache if the right action isn’t taken, says Chris Illingworth, partner at Warrington-based Watsons Solicitors.

Restrictive covenants are legal terms that can be written into the title deeds of any property, placing restrictions on what the building or land can or cannot be used for, such as banning the storing of a caravan, or the use of the property as a place of business. They can be included in both freehold or leasehold agreements and can cover any subject the person drafting the deed so wishes.

The number of restrictions in the deeds on homes built in more recent years is often more extensive and more readily enforced, as those responsible are more likely to still be in business. However, this also means it’s possible to agree to amend them.

Chris said: “Newer build houses might have more relevant covenants on them which relate to good management of housing estates, such as prohibiting alterations or extensions, that you might want to look at as time goes on.

“In this instance it’s relatively easy for someone to get in touch with a big housebuilder or developer to flag up a breach, but at the time of purchase we can also look at a deed of variation.

“Alternatively, as your solicitor also has an obligation to your mortgage lender, they should highlight this and suggest an insurance policy.

“This policy can be in the ballpark of £100 for a freehold depending on the purchase price, or around three times higher for a leasehold, due to the risk of enforcement being greater.”

There are some covenants that occur more often in properties in or near Warrington. However, the older the property is, the stranger the terms can become, but the less likely any action being taken is.

Chris added: “I’ve seen and heard of many strange covenants in my time, such as restrictions on burning whale blubber, or prohibiting the use of the property as a house of ‘ill-repute’.”

“One that’s particularly common local to here is a ban on the sale of alcohol from the property in houses that date back to the temperance movement.

“Whatever is written into them has to be enforced by someone for it to be worth worrying about and finding out who that is can be very difficult. However, it’s our duty as your solicitors to ensure you as our client are fully prepared for all such eventualities.”

Watsons Solicitors, which has been established for more than 60 years, specialises in family law, employment law, wills and probate, personal injury, and conveyancing. The team of experienced solicitors hold various accreditations and memberships of professional bodies relevant to their expertise, while the firm’s partners oversee all areas of work.

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