Guide To Deed Restricted Communities

9 Min Read
Updated July 13, 2023
Written By
Victoria Araj
Aerial view of suburban Florida newer development neighborhood.

A deed restricted community is a development where all property comes with conditions put into place (typically focused on upkeep and usage) enforced by a homeowners association (HOA). Deed restrictions stipulate, or limit, how homeowners can use their property, based on the official property records of the home.

If you’re considering purchasing a home in a deed restricted community, it’s important that you fully understand the implications before you make any major decisions. In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know before buying a home in a deed restricted community, including what a deed restricted community is, some common restrictions homeowners contend with, plus some of the pros and cons of living in a deed restricted community.

What Is A Deed Restricted Community?

A deed restricted community is a neighborhood where there are limitations on homeowners’ property rights. Deed restricted communities are often under the governance of a homeowners association (HOA), though it’s important to note that deed restrictions and HOA rules aren’t the same thing. Homeowners living in deed restricted communities follow the rules and regulations listed in their development’s Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs), which are legal terms that property owners must follow to live in that community.

If you’re ready to buy a home, it’s important to understand whether there are deed restrictions intended to back up restrictive covenants, which limit your property rights and otherwise place conditions on ownership. Such covenants and deed restrictions can impact the home buying process in a couple of ways:

  • The rules can be more desirable to some and less desirable to others.
  • If a deed restriction acts in any way to favor or exclude groups, there may be issues with getting mortgage financing.

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What Are Common Neighborhood Deed Restrictions?

A restrictive covenant is the legal agreement upon which a deed restricted community is made. In terms of the covenants backed by deed restrictions, here are a few of the most common ones:

  • Fencing: Approved fencing may need to fall in a certain height range or require the use of a specific list of materials.
  • Tree removal: The HOA may reserve the right to prohibit certain trees from removal under beautification requirements.
  • Vehicle parking: The most common restriction in this area is that vehicles have to be parked in the driveway, in your garage or in your carport space overnight. Some communities may have restrictions that you can’t have a car up on blocks or otherwise in non-working condition. Be sure you know what the rules are.
  • Customized mailboxes: If you want to have a different color for your mailbox, or a stylized number or name on it, it may be prohibited.
  • Exterior paint: In communities without an HOA, you can typically let your imagination run wild and paint your house exterior in a pop art color scheme if you want. In a deed restricted community, this may not be allowed.
  • Restrictions around pools and property structures: Depending on the restrictions in your community, they may require that you don’t have a pool (or that it must be in-ground). Similarly, you may be limited in your ability to put up a shed or construct an accessory dwelling unit on your property.
  • Age restrictions: Certain communities catering to an older population may have an age restriction on who can live in the properties. Typically, these tend to be communities for retirees and people aged 55+. In order to get mortgage financing, they have to follow federal housing law. We’ll get into more detail on this later on.
  • Pets and animals: HOAs can also put limitations on the type and number of pets you can keep in your home. Common pet restrictions include bans on certain sized or breed dogs as well as bans on keeping livestock in some residential communities.

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The Benefits Of Living In A Deed Restricted Community

Restrictions can be limiting, but they can come with benefits that are common to HOAs. Here are a few of them:

  • Prioritized upkeep: Specific rules around maintenance can mean that people place a priority on getting those tasks done. This could have the effect of helping maintain property values by reducing the likelihood of blight.
  • Community amenities: An HOA may grant community members access to certain communal amenities such as pools, clubhouses or tennis courts. They may also be something as simple as communal snow removal or lawn care.
  • Sharing of expenses: People don’t have to pay for their own pool, shuffleboard courts, snow removal or lawn care in HOAs that provide these services. Those who would like these items may benefit from the fact that expenses like these are shared across the association.

The Risks And Drawbacks Of Living In A Deed Restricted Community

For some people, the drawbacks of living in a community with deed restrictions may outweigh any benefits. If you’re the type of property owner who doesn’t like being told what you can and can’t do with your home, then living in a deed restricted community may not be for you.

In addition to the limitation of your individual liberties, buying a house in a deed restricted community can also limit your ability to sell the house to whomever you want in some cases. This is because deed restrictions are considered an encumbrance. An encumbrance is a claim that another person or entity has to your property.

In the case of most deed restrictions enforced by an HOA, new owners have to agree to the rules put in place by the neighborhood or condo association. This may limit the potential pool of home buyers who are willing to buy your property.

In other cases, there may be restrictions regarding who can move in even if they agree to the other rules. The most common example would be 55+ retirement communities, but in some areas, ownership is prohibited based on other characteristics.

What Happens If You Don’t Follow Deed Restrictions?

There are several possible consequences for those who fail to follow their community’s deed restrictions. For those living in a neighborhood with an HOA, the first step is usually receiving a letter notifying them of the violation. You might also be fined for committing a violation, especially if it isn’t resolved after the initial notice is sent out. If the violation continues unaddressed, the HOA may be able to put a lien on the property, which can make it difficult to sell the home.

For those living in communities that aren’t governed by an HOA, the builder can potentially file a lawsuit against you for not following a deed restriction.

How To Know If You’re Looking At A House In A Deed Restricted Community

If you’re in the middle of house hunting, it’s important to know if the homes you’re looking at are in a deed restricted community. There are a few ways you can go about this:

  • Talk to your real estate agent or REALTOR®, who can look at previous property listings or pull public records to look for any noted restrictions.
  • Speak with the head of the HOA, as many deed restrictions are imposed by the HOA.
  • Check your local clerk’s website and see if you can search public records yourself.
  • Ask a title company to do a title search to find out if there are any deed restrictions on the property.

How Purchasing In A Deed Restricted Community Will Affect Your Home Buying Process

Getting a home in a deed restricted community can have an impact on your home buying process. Let’s run through what may occur.

The most obvious restriction has to do with limitations on being able to do what you want to do with your property. Ideally, you know what those restrictions are well in advance, but if you don’t find out about a deed restriction until the title search, any surprises could dissuade you from getting the property that you would have loved if it weren’t for a particular HOA restriction on the height of hedges, for example.

The second hurdle has to do with financing. If deed restrictions place any limits on who you can sell the property to, you may find that you have a hard time getting a mortgage. The reasoning behind this is that in the event you struggle to make payments, a deed restriction could cause headaches. If you do end up defaulting, the mortgage lender has to sell the house. They won’t want any restrictions on who can move in.

For example, some mortgage lenders won’t fund homes subject to the following deed restrictions:

  • Anything related to title transfer limits may affect a mortgage lender’s decision.
  • Title provisions for a first right of refusal could impact a decision. A title provision means that anything where the association or other entity has the first option to buy the property won’t be funded.
  • Properties located on a Hawaiian Homeland development might be rejected for funding by lenders.
  • Properties requiring you to belong to a specific religious order could be ineligible.
  • Lenders might not want or be able to fund homes in areas specifically designated only for low-to-moderate income individuals. These homes can fall under affordable housing restrictions, Section 8 housing or inclusionary zoning categories.

Properties that are intended for those aged 55 and over are eligible for financing, but they have to comply with both the Fair Housing Act and the Housing for Older Persons Act.

The Bottom Line: Research Your Potential Home’s Deed Restrictions

Now that you know what the rules are for purchasing or refinancing a property with deed restrictions, you can decide whether one is right for you. To find out whether your potential new home has a deed restriction in place, talk with your real estate agent, a representative from the community’s HOA or an agent at the county clerk’s office.

If you’re ready to apply for a mortgage, today.

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