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Thread: Enforcing neigborhood covenants

  1. #1
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    Enforcing neigborhood covenants

    Hi,

    Came across this site while googling. My neighborhood doesn't have an homeowner's association, but we do have covenants that are a part the neighborhood. My problem is that the neighbor behind my house has recently decided to use the lot that he owns adjacent to my house for basically a construction way station; he owns a construction company and has started parking construction vehicles.

    The convents clearly state that no lot in the neighborhood can be used for any other purpose except residential use and even clearly calls out that fact that no construction materials or vehicles are to be maintain on any lot.

    I'm going to write a letter to him explaining my concerns, but I suspect that will fall on deaf ears. So my question is, how enforceable are neighborhood covenants and what would my next step be if the letter gets me no where?

    Thanks for the help!

  2. #2
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    As has been covered here in numerous threads, private covenants are not enforcable by a municipality, unless they are a party to the restrictive covenants.

    However, I would check with your town offices about the legality of a home based business, and whether there are ordinances and regulations in place that the town CAN enforce.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  3. #3
    Most covenants are completely enforceable. I think your current plan is the best first step--politely approach the neighbor with your concerns and your reason for the concerns. It might even help if you get other neighbors to go along with you so that he doesn't write you off as just a single busybody.

    If he doesn't respond, you'll have to contact a lawyer. Covenants are binding and enforceable by the court. A lawsuit could bring an injunction and possibly monetary damages.

    I'm not a lawyer and this isn't legal advice... just my opinion. Do consult a lawyer if the neighborly approach doesn't work.

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the feedback. I did do a search before posting and saw this was more of a municiaplity forum, but felt there are some experts here on this stuff.

    I wasn't sure if convents were enforceable because of some to the silly things that can be put in convents such as "using only outdoor white lights for Christmas"

    But this is a reasonable concern for a neighborhood environment. Unfortunately I'm the only one in the neighborhood who is affected by this because of the layout of the property. I'll try the neighborly thing first and see what happens.

  5. #5
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    How important is it to you? If they put up even the smallest amount of resistance, it's going to cost thousands of dollars in legal fees to get an injunction. And even if you do get an injunction, it's not self-enforcing. You'll have to go back to court to enforce it.

    Going the legal route probably isn't going to be worth it unless you can spread the cost out among many people or if legal fees are recoverable for that action (generally they aren't).

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Elaborating a little more on comments already made . . .

    The covenants are enforceable by someone (it will say in the covenants who that is), but it would probably cost you to make that happen, if asking nicely doesn't do it (unless your municipality is party to the covenants and has a policy of following through with enforcement - in my experience that's rare).

    But your municipality may well have rules that restrict this activity, and if you file a complaint through the proper channels they may take action to enforce their rules. Depending on a lot of factors, like how much political clout your neighbor has, whether your local elected officials see it as a problem, how burdened your local staffers are with other things, etc. -- you might or might not get satisfactory resolution through the complaint process.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    I say don't give up. Somewhere on the list of covenants, which you should have been given when you closed on your house, it should say who is responsible for enforcement them (basically, whoever wrote them, whether it is a big development firm, or a little grandma who subdivided some inherited land...). Contact them and ask them what they intend on doing about it. Also, like what was already mentioned, I would bet that your local zoning office (whether it is city or county) has their own rules against this kind of operation in a residential zoning district, which I assume you are zoned. Make sure you bring it to their attention, cause often we rely on concerned citizens to tell us about infractions like this, as we don't have time to patrol around just looking for people breaking the rules.

  8. #8
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    Well here is the crux of the problem. The original builder of the estates shot and killed his wife and is now in jail so I can't go to him. The person breaking the covenants happens to be the towns chairman of the zoning board (wish I was making this stuff up!) and others have had similar problems though-out the town with virtually no help from the town. And since this person is involved with the town they would most likely laugh at my concern.

    The area is zone as a rural residential area and I guess in NH there is little in the rural residential zones rules that state that a person can't use a lot in this manner.

    I plan on trying a friendly letter first outlining my concerns, but I believe eventually this will have to be pursued through a court of law. I realize that is not cheap, but at the same time I believe the valuation of my home is being dramatically affected since what was one a nice woodland view had turned into a construction way station with heavy equipment being parked on the lot.

    I appreciate the advice, good to known that I can enforce the covenants here even if it won't be friendly to the pocket book.

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