City requiring deed restriction before final inspection

by Will
(Thousand Oaks ca )

Visitor Question: OK, here is a quick run down. I purchased a property two years ago to put a barn on the back. I went back-and-forth with the city for a year and finally got permits to build the barn. Now that the barn is fully built they are wanting a deed restriction before they do the final inspection.

Property is located in California.

Editors Respond: To be practical about it, it seems you will need to impose the deed restriction that the city wants. In most places in the U.S., and certainly in your environment we would think, you need to have this drafted by an attorney.

Try to get the city to put their requirements for the restriction in writing through an e-mail. We suggest that so that the attorney has good guidance about what they want. The last thing you want to do is pay for a restriction to be drafted and recorded, and then find out you still do not pass inspection.

An honest attorney will tell you if you can do this work yourself, based on guidance from the city. This will be an easy task for an attorney who works with real estate matters at all, so there is no need for an expensive or lengthy transaction. But compared to the cost of tearing down the barn, legal fees will be insignificant.

Before you take that step, however, be sure you understand exactly what the city is concerned about. For example, maybe they think that some day you or a subsequent land owner might turn the barn into rental apartments. Who knows? When you fully understand their needs, ask if there is any other way you can satisfy them.

Just as an editorial comment, we think the city's behavior is perplexing. They should be enforcing their ideas about the desirable use of your property through traditional land use controls such as zoning or site plan review.

But probably you are going to be stuck with doing what the city wants in this instance. It's just worth one more conversation with them to understand their point of view and to brainstorm with them whether there are other ways that their concerns could be addressed.

Do try not to get in an argument with city staff. If you have gone "back and forth" with them, they may have unfairly branded you as a troublemaker already. Trust us when we say that you will have far better luck if you approach them calmly and reasonably.

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