Neighborhood Covenants


I know. Some of you think those are dirty words. But let me try to mitigate, because I see this all the time: Someone moves in and suddenly starts screaming about rules, which were in place WAY before that person moved in.

Covenants are for the purpose of protecting your property value…mostly from the influence of others who would destroy it. Imagine you buy a gorgeous $500,000 home in a community where there are no ‘restrictive covenants’ (I know, wouldn’t happen but bear with me). Then your new neighbor comes in and puts a pig pen next to your master bedroom. Then imagine that your new neighbor couldn’t give a hoot whether or not you like the smell. And imagine you say, “Well you are not supposed to build anything this close to the property line!” Then he says, “There’s nothing saying I can’t put my pig pen RIGHT HERE.”

Now try to 1) live there in peace; or 2) sell the house. Call me when either one happens.

Are you following me?

Imagine you live in a town home with assigned parking and your new neighbor has five cars, two of which he always parks in your spaces. Imagine that there are no covenants, no HOA. What are you going to do? Let me help you. You’re going to park in the next closest parking spot that’s not assigned, even if it is a quarter mile away…the distance you have to carry your groceries. With a broken leg.

Imagine you have a neighbor who works on race cars at night after he gets home from work, and does it until after midnight. Imagine you have to get up early after listening to race car engines roar all night. OR, imagine your neighbor paints his house neon orange while you are trying to sell you house. It happens!

The key is: Trying to sell your house. Covenants are often called “protective covenants” because they actually are designed to protect your property value.

Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, has his or her own opinion of what landscaping looks like. And what a good exterior paint color would be, or what constitutes a ‘pet’. Because giving peoples’ opinions free rein would result in out and out war, we have covenants. Now: If you are a nonconformist, then you are probably going to buy a property with plenty of privacy and acreage, and that’s okay. If you are a nonconformist, you don’t want anyone telling you how to live your life (I get that comment a LOT). I know that right now, this minute, you don’t live in a community with covenants. I also know that someone starting a pig farm next door to your property will NOT go over well with you. And, I also know there’s not a thing you can do about it.

But for the rest of us, believe me, covenants and a strong HOA board to enforce them, are critical. Why? Because most people don’t care whether you like the smell of animal poop; most people don’t care whether or not your leg is broken and they’ve taken your parking space. Most people don’t care a hoot about your property value, nor, in many cases, their own.

What I’m saying is this: Protective covenants are necessary because you need to know what’s going to be happening in the community where you just sent a half a million dollars, if you would like to get that back someday with a bit of equity growth. Most people do.

An HOA governing board is made up of community members, with oversight, usually, by a management company. These people are not paid. They have to deal with a thousand complaints because…everybody has their own idea of…everything. You get the idea. And, most residents pay their dues on time, every time. But some people don’t. That means they are riding on your payment of fees. That’s why the HOA has an attorney; that’s why there are late fees. I’m thinking when it’s time for the road to be paved, you’d like everyone to pay their share of the cost. If you don’t have an HOA, you might have to pay their cost.

An entry monument to your neighborhood has to be cared for by someone, and the HOA pays for that out of the dues you pay. Why? If you try to sell your home and potential buyers see weeds and dead plants at the entry, guess what they do? Right! Keep driving.

It’s about property value. Yours! But all other things aside, if you ARE moving into a community with covenants, READ THEM BEFORE YOU BUY. That way, if you want to raise pigs, you won’t end up losing your property over it, or paying fines or having your home foreclosed on (and yes, that can happen).

If you buy a property with protective covenants and you have not read them, then you have no business complaining when you get fined for breaking those covenants. Just be sure you do your due diligence. That way you will HAVE good neighbors, and maybe more importantly you will BE a good neighbor.

Covenants are available in the tax website, listed as deed restrictions, covenants, restrictive covenants, protective covenants….there are a lot of names for them. So when you plan to buy a home, find them, or ask me, your agent, to get them for you. Know what the HOA dues are, and what the covenants say. Then you’re good to go!


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