Subdivision covenants are private agreements or contracts that place restrictions on land use. They are typically associated with deeds or subdivision plats. A plat is a survey that describes the roadway, access rights of way, boundaries, easements and flood zones of land that is being subdivided.
A subdivision covenant is legally binding on all property owners referenced on the deed or subdivision plat. The covenant dictates how they can and cannot use the property. This includes subsequent owners for the time period set forth in the deed or plat.
The restrictions usually apply to a group of homes or lots that are part of a particular development or subdivision. They are normally established by the original developer, differ from one group of homes to another and are meant to protect property value.
Covenants differ from development zoning conditions in that the latter place restrictions on land use through the zoning process. Local governments do not have legal authority to enforce subdivision covenants. They must be enforced in civil court by the parties subject to the covenants.
Examples of clauses that might appear in a subdivision covenant are restrictions on the distance between houses and the street, and on pathways for power lines and roads. Rules regarding pets, fencing, tree cutting, home businesses and storage are additional examples of what might appear in the agreement.