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Deed Restrictions: Heaven Sent or the Devil's Playground?

I am often asked what deed restrictions are. Some parts of the country have very little experience with this type of issue, while others who have lived in subdivisions, small and large, are all too familiar with them.

Deed restrictions are usually set up by the developer and/or the Home Owners Association (HOA) and limit what you can and cannot do within a community where a property is located. In the sad days of discrimination, deed restrictions were used to keep certain races, nationalities, families, or religions out of an area. Happily those days are long gone. Though I am told that some very old deeds may still have such rules in them. However, these can no longer be enforced since they would violate Fair Housing Law.

Today the main goal of deed restrictions is to maintain the neighborhood in such a way that its property values are kept at the highest levels possible. Have you ever driven down a street in an area of nice homes with no deed restrictions and all of a sudden, there is a bright purple house next to the others? How about a home with an unmown lawn and a couple of vehicles up on blocks in the side yard. What does that do to the values of the well-maintained homes on either side? I can tell you that it does not make them go up. That is what deed restrictions try to prevent.

Some subdivisions have very minor restrictions, such as: no livestock can be kept on the property, no derelict vehicles to be parked on the property, no more than X number of pets, lawns must be mowed regularly, etc.

Some others are much stricter. Rules in these subdivisons can include: all mailboxes must be the HOA approved model, no vehicles can be parked on the driveway at night, all exterior house paint colors must be approved by the HOA, plants in your gardens must be from a specified list of approved varieties, no exterior structures (including swingsets or jungle gyms) can be placed on the property, no fences, no clotheslines in public view, only approved grass can be planted in the lawns, and the always present catch all, no activities that could be considered to be a nuisance in nature.

Some subdivisions are very strict about enforcing their restrictions and have roving residents who will report violations. I must admit, some of these people seem to take a certain amount of pleasure in ferreting out violatons. Park your boat on the driveway overnight and you can expect a warning note on your door the next day. Others are more lax about such things. As long as it does not annoy the neighbors, not much happens. The subdivisions with the more expensive homes tend to be more fastidious about enforcement.

As a buyer, it is advisable that you get a copy of the deed restrictions for any neighborhood that you are thinking of purchasing a home in. Often your agent can get you a copy from the HOA or they can be obtained from the county offices where they were probably recorded. If they seem reasonable to you, then full steam ahead. But if you think they wil be too onerous, you may want to look elsewhere. Otherwise you may be the subdivision's pariah, forever arguing with the HOA over whether your red hibiscus should stay even though only the yellow hibiscus is on the approved list.

In a perfect world all of us would try to do things in such a way that we would not hurt our neighbors in any way, and we would expect them to return the favor. Unfortunately it does not always work that way. I guess that is why there are laws, rules, and deed restrictions.

So be an informed buyer and ask about the deed restrictions for any subdivisions that you are house hunting in. If you want to be to live in a "deed restriction free" zone, there are plenty of those around too. There you will just need to follow local ordinances or zoning laws. The choice is all yours. The important thing is that you find a property and location where you can enjoy living in your new home.

For more information or questions about this topic please call me at: 813-783-4444 or e-mail me at: jelwell1@tampabay.rr.com

John Elwell - REALTOR

CENTURY 21

Bill Nye Realty, Inc.

813-783-4444

Licensed in Florida

 

Comment balloon 0 commentsJohn Elwell • July 31 2007 09:08PM

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