So you have made a big life decision and entered the real estate market.
You are excited and proud, and as a new player in the real estate market, it’s important to become familiar with all the terminology that may come up in contracts and legal documents.
What is a covenant?
A “covenant” is an agreement between the estate developer and the buyer of a block of land.
The Covenant sets out the standards for the construction of houses, landscaping, and streetscapes within the estate.
It is basically a set of guidelines that must be agreed upon. It sets the intention for the estate and is an invaluable asset in the transformation of a large parcel of vacant land into an established and thriving community. The covenants primarily govern the use of the property and range from broad issues such as how many buildings can be built on each lot; the size of the dwelling; structural materials and finish style; to finer details such as landscaping quality and style; fencing; or letterbox.
Imagine relaxing out in your backyard after a long day at work, when suddenly all you can hear is your neighbour setting up an at-home mechanic under a carport in their front yard. The noise of tools clinking and engines revving is very distracting, and suddenly you feel tense.
This scenario would not occur due to a covenant stating that carports are not permitted, and dismantled cars must be kept in the garage and not visible from the street. The purpose of covenants is to ensure that all the homes built within the estate are of the same quality. They also provide certainty to buyers, giving them confidence that their neighbours’ activities will not detract from their own property value or their enjoyment of their home.
Covenants exist to limit the misuse of property. Your home is one of the biggest investments you will ever make, and there is peace of mind in knowing that the house next door can’t be painted in red, white, and black stripes. Yes, it has happened!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why can’t I continue my side retaining wall onto my footpath and rake it down to the kerb?
The verge or footpath area in front of your land is owned by the Local Authority and apart from the installation of a professionally constructed driveway crossover from your front boundary to the kerb, no other structures may be installed on this footpath area as they may become safety hazards.
Why am I required to continue the turf from my front garden onto the footpath in front of my house, and why should I mow it if I don’t own it?
Simply, it makes your home look better. It is also a standard of the Covenant for the maintenance of the high standard of your home and the estate.
Do I have to keep the tree that has been planted on the footpath in front of my lot?
Yes, you are required to ensure the tree planted on the footpath in front of your lot is not damaged or removed at any stage of your building or following the completion of your house. It is a local authority requirement that street trees are planted throughout the estate, and the damage or removal of the tree will result in a fine from the council and will also result in a breach of the covenant. Once established, the footpath trees enhance the environment and create a beautiful streetscape.
What if the Covenant is breached?
We understand building a house and creating a home is a very busy time. Things can go wrong, and mistakes happen. When we become aware of a breach, we contact the owner and, if necessary, their builder to advise them of the breach and request rectification, setting a reasonable time in which the matter is to be addressed.
What happens if an owner doesn’t comply with the covenant after they have been advised of a breach?
All steps are taken to ensure that the resolution of a breach of covenant is addressed quickly and with the minimum cost and inconvenience as possible. Nevertheless, a covenant is a legally binding agreement and allows for liquidated damages to be sought for failure to comply with the covenant. Continued failure to remedy a breach may result in the matter being pursued through the court system if necessary. This is, of course, a last option, and on the rare occasion it has become necessary to legally enforce the covenant, it was after continued attempts at resolution failed and to mitigate the impact of the breach on surrounding homeowners.
If you had one piece of advice up-front, what would it be?
Get to know your future neighbours. You will all be doing the same thing at roughly the same time, so reach out early on and have conversations about fencing, landscaping, retaining walls, etc. The one thing we hear repeatedly is that people want good neighbours and to be part of a community. So, say hello, share information and advice where you can, and work together for the best outcome.
If you’re looking to buy in a community of like-minded neighbours, Oxmar Properties guarantee over 95% of sales in our estates are to Owner-Occupiers. That means you’re surrounded by neighbours who take pride in their homes, just like you.