Covenants protect a homeowner's investment, but also limit freedom of expression as well
By Jody Anderson
For some, the beautiful new developments springing up around the countryside are a dream for any potential home buyer.
However, few may know that many of the developments come along with a catch commonly referred to as a covenant, offered through the developer.
Covenants are contracts that govern many, though not all, new developments; at times dictating the color of house, whether a home owner can have an external dog kennel, and even placing a garage sale sign in a yard owned by a homeowner.
This is for a good reason, commented Rick Packer, of Arcon Construction of Waverly, who represents the Carrigan Meadows Development:
“It protects property values of everyone in the neighborhood by keeping it clean,” Packer said.
Tony Matczynski of Grass Lake Farms agreed.
“A covenant is meant to maintain the value of each homeowner’s new construction . . . a new home is not a cheap investment, and you want to protect it,” he said.
The following is a sampling of some of the requirements that are included in diverse covenants used in the developments currently under construction in the area:
• no animals of any kind shall be raised, bred or kept on any lot, except dogs, cats, or other household pets, provided they are not kept for any commercial purpose, and are housed in the main dwelling or garage.
Some developments allow a kennel attached to the rear of the home, providing that it is screened from view from the streets or adjacent lots.
• outside storage buildings may not be erected without prior approval of the Architectural Control Committee.
• no sign of any kind shall be displayed to the public view on any lot except: one sign of not more than six square feet advertising property for sale or signs approved by the Architectural Control Committee for a new home, model home or development sales.
• no obnoxious or offensive activity shall be carried on upon any lot which may be or may become an annoyance or nuisance to the neighborhood.
• no recreational equipment shall be used on a lot for living, sleeping or housekeeping purposes. Recreational equipment is defined as travel trailers, pickup campers or coaches, motorized dwellings, trailers, snowmobiles, fish houses, ATVs, boats and trailers.
Most agreements set a time limit that a recreational vehicle may be parked in a driveway.
Some developments allow recreational equipment to be stored in a garage, or stored on the property as long as it is screened from the street.
• no radio or television broadcasting or receiving antenna or other similar apparatus shall extend above the roof of the dwelling.
Conventional TV antennas should be mounted within the attic of the structure.
Any receiving or broadcasting equipment to be located outside the structure shall be screened from view from streets and adjacent lots.
• no trailer, basement, tent, shack, garage, barn, or outbuilding erected on the premises is permitted at any time to be used as a residence temporarily or permanently, nor shall any structure of a temporary character be erected, used or occupied for residence thereof; nor shall any building not completely finished on the exterior be occupied as a residence.
• all front and side yards must have sod or seed installed within a specified amount of days of occupancy, weather permitting.
Some developments require a tree of a certain trunk diameter to be planted and maintained on each lot.
The trees must be planted prior to the closing date of the new home.
Some associations will hold an escrow until these trees are planted.
The covenants are enforced in the building stages by the company that is developing the property.
Each company provides a schedule thereafter for a homeowner’s association to take over the obligations of ensuring the covenant’s articles are respected. Sanctions and actions to be taken are agreed upon and amended by the homeowner’s association. Some covenants mention a time limit, some do not.
It is important to note that every company develops its own set of covenants; each one is different.
Local Realtor Dave Perry, who represents Lake Ridge in Howard Lake, noted the importance of becoming an informed prospective buyer:
“I would encourage the buying public to ask for a copy of the covenants governing the developments in the area,” he said.