Living in a covenanted community has its benefits. Gated or closed neighborhoods tend to be well-maintained, quieter and safer. Additionally, it’s easier for homeowners to retain or increase investments made in their properties.

A homeowners’ association checks that residents follow covenant guidelines. It’s no easy feat, but without cooperation comes disarray.

When are covenants used?

Most planned developments use covenants, such as housing cooperatives and gated communities. Covenants are essentially promises made by potential homebuyers. This is generally an agreement about land use. Homebuyers must follow the conditions and standards of the agreement, as well as obey the restrictions.

Properly drafted covenants retain property value better. On the other hand, a poorly drafted and unenforced covenant hurts everyone involved.

Purpose of CC&Rs

Covenants, conditions and restrictions – commonly termed as CC&Rs – govern the use of real property. Rules vary depending on the development and the homeowners’ association. In summary, CC&Rs restrict homeowners from doing certain things on their property. Usually, these rules involve maintaining the appearance of the neighborhood.

For example, a covenanted community can enforce lawn maintenance rules. Each homeowner’s yard needs to meet a certain standard. So, you don’t have to worry about your neighbors unraked leaves blowing into your yard or look at grass that’s grown a foot tall. Rules might also prohibit homeowners from hanging their laundry outside or painting the house a certain color.

CC&Rs should be well-drafted and well-enforced

CC&Rs typically work well in residential neighborhoods when everyone cooperates with the rules. Unfortunately, violations can suffocate the benefits. It’s the responsibility of homeowners’ association to enforce the rules and resolve any issues.

The goal of a CC&R agreement is to protect, enhance and preserve property values. When drafting the agreement, it’s important to find balance. The rules apply to everyone; therefore, the rules should be reasonable. It’s difficult to change CC&Rs after it’s put in motion.

After CC&Rs are in place, enforcement is key. There are ways to enforce and handle violations, which include:

  • Variances: A request for variance is essentially a request for permission to do something outside of the requirements. It’s important for the homeowners’ association to listen to a homeowner’s concerns and needs. Variances are typically granted when a certain rule unfairly affects a resident.
  • Association hearings: Requests for variances and alleged violations are generally handled by hearing before the association. Residents can voice their concerns and opinions, defend themselves against allegations and present witnesses. Usually votes control the resolutions.
  • Modifications: Lastly, it’s important for the homeowners’ association to pick the right battles. Aggressively enforcing minor rules may backfire. Some violations might happen one time, under a special circumstance. Sometimes it’s wise to let go of small matters. On the other hand, repeat violations are a cause for action.