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“Covenants, conditions, and restrictions” (hereafter CC&Rs) is a generic term for privately-created rules and regulations that frequently govern the use and improvement of real property. They are a long-time staple of the real estate market, appearing regularly as exceptions to title.
The Basics – CC&Rs Defined
A covenant is an agreement or promise to do or not to do a particular act. It is created by those words in a deed or other instrument that denote an agreement between the parties to that deed or instrument.
A restriction is a limitation on the use of the land.
Land developers often utilize covenants and restrictions when subdividing land in order to establish uniform provisions concerning the use of the lots and the character, size, and location of the improvements to be constructed on the lots. These restrictions are usually called general plan restrictions, and are normally set forth on a plat of subdivision, in the developer’s deeds to the initial lot purchasers, or in a declaration. (While probably not entirely synonymous, the terms “covenant” and “restriction” will be used interchangeably in this article.)
A condition in a deed, on the other hand, is a qualification of the estate granted. It is a requirement of the conveyance.
Building lines (also known as building setback lines) create areas of unobstructed light, air, and vision for the benefit of the public and for the benefit of all the owners upon whose property the restricted area is laid out. They also secure uniformity in the appearance of the buildings, which helps keep property values high.
Building lines are a form of covenant. A declaration of covenants, conditions, and restrictions containing building lines is a limitation on the use of the land. The building line limits where the improvements may be placed on the land. Most building lines are created by a plat of subdivision or in a declaration of CC&Rs. These are privately created building lines.
Through the zoning power, municipalities and counties may create building lines as well. These publicly-created building lines on occasion are different from the privately-created setbacks.
The difference between these two types of setbacks lies in their enforcement. Private building lines may be enforced by other owners in the subdivision. Zoning setbacks may be enforced by the municipality or county.
Because building lines are a form of covenant, they will not be discussed separately in the remainder of this article.