Residents often ask how private deed restrictions are different from zoning. The big picture answer is that both documents define how property can be used. More often than not, private deed restrictions, or homeowner association’s codes, covenants and restrictions (CC&Rs) go beyond the standards in a community’s zoning regulations. CC&Rs are a private agreement between the homeowner association and the property owner. If you reside in a subdivision, you more than likely have a homeowner’s association. The government does not write or enforce these private deed restrictions, but it does impose and enforce zoning. Additionally, zoning is subject to public hearing requirements and to legal notice requirements when a zoning district is applied to a particular property.

Usually the first homeowners who purchase from the developer in a subdivision or development have no opportunity at all for input into the content of the restrictive covenants. While restrictive covenants differ from community to community, there are some common things you would expect to see:

  • Permissible colors for exterior house paint
  • Minimum property and landscaping standards
  • Types of fencing allowed
  • Types of window treatments allowed
  • Limitations on the type of security lights you can attach to the house
  • Controls on installing sporting equipment such as a basketball hoop in the driveway
  • Restrictions that limit vehicle storage or recreational vehicle parking
  • Restrictions on property uses that generate noise or smells (e.g., raising livestock)
  • Rules on commercial or business uses of land reserved for residences

A few things to keep in mind regarding zoning regulations, and CC&Rs include:

  • Restrictive covenants are a civil matter enforced by the parties named in the restriction, such as a homeowners’ association or a property owner.
  • Changes to zoning regulations should not affect the enforceability of deed restrictions. A deed restriction that is enforceable now should continue to be enforceable, regardless of changes to zoning regulations.
  • Zoning does not extinguish the obligations between parties to a deed restriction.
  • Just because zoning is approved does not mean that the HOA will approve a particular project, especially if it is not in compliance with the CC&Rs.

Other questions focus on whether the Township can deny permit applications based on deed restrictions that exist on a property. A few things to keep in mind regarding Township permit application approvals and deed restrictions include:

  • If a zoning permit application complies with the Zoning regulations, then staff must approve the application whether or not it conforms to a deed restriction.
  • The Township cannot prevent landowners from developing property based on a deed restriction.

Please contact your homeowner association if you’re uncertain whether your property is subject to covenants, conditions, and restrictions.