Understanding Subdivision Covenants
If you’re looking at buying land with the intention of subdividing then there’s one thing you will need to understand before making a commitment – subdivision covenants. So what are they?
Subdivision covenants, also known as restrictive covenants, are commonly applied to residential subdivisions. Sometimes referred to as building schemes, they are a form of contractual agreement that includes restrictions on how land can be used or developed with the objective being to maintain the quality of a subdivision and the value of properties within it.
Landowners or developers often want to place restrictions on the use of land when they decide to sell it, particularly if they are retaining some neighbouring land or as a way to enhance property values by locking in the quality of the development. Covenants are a means to control the way a development looks and will be maintained as well as creating positive environmental and amenity outcomes.
Common examples of covenants can include standards and guidelines for:
- The design and location of dwellings and garages.
- The location and width of driveways.
- The manner in which a dwelling connects with and relates to the street such as requiring dwelling design to relate well to the road.
- Minimum architectural / building quality standards, including prescribing certain building materials.
- The height and location of front fences.
- The time within which construction is to be completed.
Other typical covenant restrictions relate more to the land and can include:
- The preservation of vegetation and streams.
- The development of on-site storm water detention and its continued maintenance.
- To keep grass cut to a specified length.
- Control vegetation height in order to preserve a particular view shaft.
- Prohibit the planting of non-native species.
- Limit the number of cats which the owner can keep on the property.
Larger sections may be subject to a land covenant prohibiting further subdivision.
Covenants are recorded on the Certificate of Title and continue after you’ve built your house and after you’ve sold it, passing the limitations on to the next owners. The covenant applies equally to all the sections in the subdivision are usually enforceable by each owner of a lot against all the other owners.
Nowadays, it would be very rare for lots in a new subdivision not to be subject to restrictions on their use. However, when drafting covenants, care must be taken to ensure the meaning is clear and unequivocal, that there is an overall benefit to the subdivision and that they are not so restrictive as to put off prospective buyers.
Some covenants in the past have been unenforceable, either because they are poorly drafted or the law will not support them.
If you’re considering registering a subdivision covenant in the Wellington, Wairarapa, Kapiti or Horowhenua regions, talk to the team at The Surveying Company. We specialise in subdivision design and we are highly experienced with the covenant process and will ensure your covenant is professionally drafted so it provides you with the ideal solution.