A real covenant
is a legal
obligation imposed in a deed
by the seller upon the buyer of real estate
to do or not to do something. Such restrictions frequently "run with the land" and are enforceable on subsequent buyers of the property. Examples might be to maintain a property in a reasonable state of repair, to preserve a sight-line for a neighboring property, not to run a business from a residence, or not to build on certain parts of the property.
Some covenants are very hard and are meant only to protect a neighborhood
from rapists destroying trees
things or otherwise directly harming property values
. Some go to an extreme and try to dictate absolutely everything a homeowner can do to the exterior, including the number of non-familial tenants one may have, or needing permission
the home unless it will be exactly the same color
. Other extremes include dictating exactly when holiday decorations
are allowed up, prohibiting the raising of a hood on any car (even to check it for safety), even prohibiting any car from being parked outside a garage
at all. Many communities also forbid amateur radio
or outdoor television antennas. However, there is a growing number of states that are enacting legislation that override covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs), thus protecting amateur radio operators from adverse actions due to CC&Rs concerning antennas.
Some have accused homeowners associations
of selective enforcement
of these rules, making a case only when it is something (or someone) another person dislikes. Breaking a rule, even unintentionally, can bring fines
or even a lien
on the home. In extreme cases, homeowners' associations may file a lawsuit
against a resident who violates the association bylaws or even foreclose
Attempts have been made to have federal agencies preempt certain restrictive covenants. For example, the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) attempted unsuccessfully to have the FCC pre-empt restrictive covenants related to amateur radio towers. The FCC found that restrictive covenants are private contractual agreements, not state or local regulation, and not subject to the FCC pre-emption policy.
A restrictive covenant differs from a zoning regulation in that its creation and enforcement is a matter of contract between the landowners whose properties are affected by it, rather than an exercise of the governmental police power.
Restrictive covenants in the history of segregation in the United States of America
In many cases before the 1960s, these covenants were used for segregationist
purposes. In the case of Shelley v. Kraemer
, the United States Supreme Court
ruled that it would be unconstitutional for the courts to enforce racially restrictive covenants, and such covenants no longer have any force.