CC and Rs: Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions

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Definition: Covenants, conditions, and restrictions are limitations and rules placed on a group of homes by a builder, developer, neighborhood association and/or homeowner association. All condos and townhomes have CC&Rs; however, so do most planned unit developments and established neighborhoods.

About unlawful restrictions in the CC&RS

Some CC&R's involve restrictions that are against the law and are unenforceable, often involving race. The really old CC&Rs, prior to the 1960s, often prohibited sales of property to people who were not "white" i.e. Caucasian. To the shock of many people, these offensive and racist documents are still in the public records today but are unenforceable due to many state and federal laws. There are social movements across the country to physically remove these documents and rewrite them, rather than leave the CC&Rs in place with the offending verbiage crossed out.

Many of the CC&Rs we receive in California come from title companies with a standard notation, which states:

"If this document contains any restrictions based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, familial status, marital status, disability, national origin, source of income . . . or ancestry, that restriction violates state and federal housing laws and is void . . .. " But this is not enough. As a forward-thinking and humane society, we should rewrite and re-record CC&Rs that contain such provisions.

Some documents even contain instructions as to how to accomplish a rewrite. It might require up to 50% of the households in the neighborhood to elect to terminate or amend by a resolution executed, acknowledged and recorded in the public records at the offices of the County Recorder of said county. Perhaps you could obtain a copy of your neighborhood's CC&Rs and start a petition to rewrite those old CC&Rs that contain such ugly and unlawful restrictions? Or bring this matter to the attention of your Neighborhood Watch captain or another neighborhood leader?

If you are not part of the solution these days, you are part of the problem.

Types of Lawful Restrictions Contained in the CC&RS

Unusual restrictions: Some neighborhoods restrict the color you can paint your house, for example. A neighborhood in Huntington Beach, CA, has CC&Rs that demand every house be painted white. CC&Rs can place restrictions of almost any kind of nature, as long as the group writing them agree to it and it doesn't violate any laws.

Building restrictions and space limitations: These types of restrictions are more common and often describe how close to the property lines a structure may be built, and may also include the minimum and maximum areas a dwelling may occupy.

Prohibition for non-residential uses: This typically restricts commercial or industrial enterprises. There is a fine line between using a home office to conduct business and generating more traffic in your neighborhood due to clients coming to your house.

Pet restrictions: Yes, some CC&Rs prohibit raising, say, chickens or rabbits in your yard and do not allow livestock. If some livestock is allowed, the number of animals you may keep on your property could be limited. Which means if your baby duck gives birth to 20 other ducks, you could be in trouble.

Fence height limitations: Although most city codes provide for setbacks and restrictions on fence constructions, it's not uncommon to find limitations stated in the CC&Rs.

Maintenance of yards: You might be surprised at how yards are required to be maintained. Some CC&Rs are so vague that they allow enforcement if the grounds are not maintained in a "general standard of neat and attractiveness," and will allow a lien to be placed against the property for expenses incurred to enforce.

In Closing: Always read CC&Rs before buying a home. Ask for a copy if you don't receive it. You may find you cannot park your car in the drive for more than two hours or put a basketball hoop in the street. Conformity can be a good thing, but it's not for all people.