After three years in the property, she says her freehold “isn’t worth the paper it’s written on”.
Her solicitor came recommended by Persimmon Homes. Among the covenants were legal rights for Persimmon Homes, which could evict her if she failed to pay the ‘annual rent charge’ that would pay for the upkeep of green spaces and road maintenance once the development was completed. No restriction had been placed on the rent charge that controlled any future increases, and Ms Sullivan’s concern arose as she knew of another estate’s service charge that had tripled in just two years.
A restrictive covenant is a binding legal agreement and is usually intended to preserve an amenity. If it is too restrictive, it can seriously affect the way a property can be used. However, the sensitive consideration of restrictive convenants can protect both the developer and home buyer by preserving the amenity for the good of the neighbourhood.
Ms Sullivan said she had discovered ‘more than a dozen’ such restrictive covenants in place on her home, although she did admit that some were reasonable. However, one of the convenants that concerned her was her obligation to get permission from, and pay a fee to, Persimmon Homes if she wanted to build an extension. Again, the fee was not limited. As a pensioner, Ms Sullivan said any increases in her living costs would be a problem.
With regard to service charges, Persimmon Homes said that residents would in future be able to decide the level of maintenance carried out to common areas and could appoint an agent or self-manage the work.
Persimmon Homes said that it was not unusual for restrictive covenants on new developments although they are unusual on older freehold properties and often the result of changes to the property (see this month’s legal article: Restrictive covenants preventing sale of property).
Persimmon Homes says in its literature: ‘Some examples of restrictive covenants are not using your home for trade or business, not altering the structure of your home without consent from us, not carrying out anti-social activities which could annoy neighbours. Ask your solicitor for details of the restrictive covenants which apply to your new home.’
It is yet to be determined whether Ms Sullivan intends to pursue the matter legally or whether there is a case of liability.