If you are buying a house and have been told by your solicitor that you must not breach restrictive covenants, Thompson Smith and Puxon Residential Property solicitor, Laura Finnigan, explains what this means.

Covenants are legally binding obligations which attach to property. Some are negative and others are positive. Covenants bind the property, irrespective of ownership and passing of time. It is therefore extremely important that you read all the covenants carefully to ensure that they will not interfere with the way you intend to use the property and that the covenants have not been breached already.

Examples of covenants can include a restriction on the use of the property to residential use only, a requirement that you obtain consent from the original developer of the property before extending or altering the property in any way (in addition to any necessary planning permission/ building regulations consent), a restriction on your ability to keep animals at the property or a restriction on the use of advertising boards or parking of commercial vehicles at the property.

If a covenant is breached it is possible that the person/body with the benefit of the covenant could seek to enforce it. In practical terms, enforcement of the covenant becomes less likely through passage of time, as there may be no one able to enforce them. It is possible to obtain indemnity insurance to cover financial loss arising from covenants that have been breached and we would recommend that you speak to your solicitor for further information. It is certainly worth checking your property title before you, for example, commence work on extending your property or use it for business purposes, just in case you may be breaching existing covenants. This, of course, does not negate the necessity to obtain planning permission/building regulations consent for any such work.

For general advice in relation to any residential property matters, including restrictive covenants, please contact Laura Finnigan at Thompson Smith and Puxon on 01206 217 020 or by email at laura.finnigan@tsplegal.com.