Pick a residential property in the Metroplex. Anywhere in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I’ll bet you a dozen face masks that the property has deed restrictions.
Residential deed restrictions are written agreements that limit or restrict the use of a property. They are private agreements and are tied to the land regardless of the owner of the property. These are sometimes referred to as covenants, conditions, and restrictions. They are in addition to any restrictions placed by governmental laws, statutes, and ordinances.
Where do Deed Restrictions Come From?
Usually, deed restrictions are placed on a property by the property owner with the intent to enrich the value and desirability of that property. Developers often include restrictions not covered by area zoning regulations. These restrictions specify a list of prohibited activities.
Most deed restrictions are permanent and “run with the land”. This means all current and future owners of the property must abide by the restrictions, whether they were attached to the property 5 years ago when the neighborhood by the developer, or 100 years ago by the farmer who owned the land.
Examples of Deed Restrictions
Deed restrictions are legal constraints that dictate what a homeowner can or cannot do with their property. Examples of common deed restrictions can include and are not limited to:
- What building materials may be used in construction including style or color
- Types of animals allowed such as no farm animals or livestock
- No hunting
- No mobile homes
- No further dividing of the lots
- No outdoor storage of trailers, boats, etc.
- Easements and usage of easements
- Building height, maximum or minimum square footage
- Number of vehicles allowed in the driveway
- Type and/or height of fencing allowed
- Type and/or number of trees you must have on the property
- No sheds, detached workshops, or extra garages
- No running a business from your home
Kinds of Deed Restrictions
In addition to private deed restrictions, there are municipal or civil deed restrictions, too. There may also be HOA rules and regulations attached to the property. Additionally, there are zoning designations, historic or conservation districts, planned development districts, neighborhood stabilization overlays, and more.
Types of property restrictions can be extensive. There are broad residential zoning categories as well as several distinct zoning sub-types within our metro areas. The different governmental restrictions often dictate front and side yard setbacks, home height, etc.
While deed restrictions can be similar to HOA rules, they are distinct. A property can be regulated by both deed and HOA restrictions.
Do Deed Restrictions Expire?
Deed restrictions usually do not expire unless there is a specified, written expiration date. They typically ‘run with the land’ forever. Any deed restrictions from a prior owner remain with the property and each subsequent owner is restricted by them.
Some deed restrictions are specified for only 25 to 30 years. Some contain a provision for automatic renewal unless the owners take action to prevent renewal.
How Are Deed Restrictions Enforced?
Enforcement of private deed restrictions usually lies with the area homeowners, neighbors, or HOA. Without an HOA, many restrictions survive in limbo because no ruling body still exists to enforce them. Outside of HOA rules, most private deed restrictions on properties are placed there by the developer to ‘maintain the integrity of the neighborhood.’ The neighbors must then enforce compliance with the deed restrictions.
Deed restrictions are not enforceable if they are illegal, vague, or expired. Restrictions cannot be enforced if they violate local, state, or federal laws. Examples of illegal restrictions include covenants that restrict the race, age, or religion of owners. Discriminatory deed restrictions have been ruled unconstitutional.
Deed restrictions must also be clear and detailed. If neighbors have been granted waivers for some restrictions, homeowners may argue that the needs of the neighborhood have changed and a previous restriction has been abandoned or is outdated.
Deed restrictions are difficult to modify. It may take a judicial ruling to invalidate covenants. After obtaining a copy of the restrictions from your county courthouse, check for an expiration date or provisions for changing them. You may be able to find them online from your county deed records office. The original grantor of the deed restriction may also waive or revoke it.
It’s The Buyer’s Responsibility to Check Restrictions
Deed restrictions usually appear in the county property records where the property is located. In advance of closing, a buyer should always review the title company documents for any deed restrictions on the property they are purchasing. The title company insures title to the property, but doesn’t insure the buyer’s intended use of the property.
It is incumbent on the buyer to understand any restrictions as to the use of the property. If you’re considering the purchase of a property in the D-FW area, enforceable deed restrictions likely exist.
The opinions expressed are of the individual author for informational purposes only and not for legal advice. Contact an attorney for any particular issue or problem.