What exactly is a neighborhood restriction? What about “CC&Rs?” And covenants?
We know, it can be confusing. In general, all these terms are used to describe rules and regulations set forth for the residents of a community by a board or HOA; the community can be a condo complex, a planned development, or an un-gated neighborhood.
A quick primer on the different kinds of regulations
Deed restrictions are the most legally binding set of rules for your property. They can cover everything from the size of property you can build to the paint color of your fence and are a written condition of your deed when you purchase the house or property.
CC&R stands for “Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions.” They’re the next most formal, permanent type of restrictions that can be applied to your land and home and are always in writing. They’re established by an HOA or a neighborhood board/association and can be amended with a neighborhood vote, which typically must be unanimous. Usually CC&Rs don’t change very often.
Rules (or ‘restrictions’) are more fluid. Rules for a neighborhood or condo/townhome development can change annually based on a simple board vote. They can even change based on the hire of a new property management company. In general, rules are not as enforceable as CC&Rs or deed restrictions and though they should be taken seriously should not greatly alter your quality of life.
What does all this mean for home buyers?
If you’re currently on the market for a home you and your Realtor should pay close attention to any deed restrictions and/or CC&Rs that come with any particular property. CC&R documents can be long and tedious but just one page can contain a single clause that prevents you from using your property they way you’re planning. It’s important to know exactly what these documents say and give you permission to do before you buy a home as you waive your rights to appeal once you knowingly buy.
Deed restrictions are very general and usually don’t pertain as much to aesthetics as they do to land use, size, and easements. CC&Rs, however, can greatly alter the way you use your home. Here are a few common examples of CC&Rs to keep an eye out for:
- General maintenance rules may require you mow your lawn regularly, keep shrubs off the sidewalk, or avoid building a front-yard fence. You could be fined or even evicted if you don’t follow these restrictions.
- View obstruction is common where applicable. Since CC&Rs exist for the purpose of ensuring the whole neighborhood stays content, you may not be allowed to build anything (a wall, a shed, a garage) that obstructs your neighbors’ view.
- Pets are a common concern. Some CC&Rs limit the number of pets you may have and also the type. If you’ve always dreamed of having a backyard chicken coop you should check the documents carefully before you buy.
- Business and zoning conditions are also common to prevent homeowners from turning the neighborhood into a retail center. Even if you don’t plan on starting a home daycare in your house you need to know what the restrictions say in case your neighbor does.
- Architectural review is also a consideration you should keep in mind if you’re considering remodeling in the future. The HOA may have the ability to veto your added second-story or to tell you your shutters don’t match the character of the neighborhood.
Still have questions?
If you’re considering buying a property in a neighborhood, planned community, or townhome development it’s particularly important to work with a Realtor who can help you navigate any rules and restrictions. Buying a property is a big decision and at the very least you should be aware of exactly what you’re buying into!