Where to Find Deed Restrictions

by Rick
(Oneida NY USA)

Visitor Question: Others have mentioned deed restrictions, such as you can't park you camper in your driveway, or boats, or utility trailers. My question is where are these rules found? Are they in writing on my deed? If so they are not there. If they are not mentioned in my deed, do I have deed restrictions?

Editors' Reply: This question often is embedded in other questions we receive under this section of the website, so we will try to answer it once and for all.

The short answer to your question is "maybe." It's frustrating, we know.

One point to make at the outset is that other may be mistaken in calling the rules deed restrictions. Sometimes homeowners associations (HOAs) are given the right to make rules and regulations that may not be recorded in your county records. If the HOA has the right to levy fines or other penalties, and if the HOA board made rules after a number of lots had been sold, the board may just administer rules and regulations without the added layer of deed restrictions.

But for now, we will go ahead and assume that your neighbors are correct and that you have deed restrictions.

Understand that we are not attorneys; we are city planners. But our opinion is that deed restrictions always should be written right into the deed, if they amount to only a paragraph or two. If they are longer (many condominium developments will have 50 pages or more of restrictions), we think that you individual deed should refer by name to the document that contains these restrictions.

For example, a deed might say, "This property is subject to all of the covenants, rules, and restrictions as found in the document Tulip Hills Condominium Master Deed."

If this did not happen in your case, you may be able to complain about your real estate agent or title company, or in extreme cases you might need to file or threaten a lawsuit.

If this is more of an annoyance than a deal breaker for you, of course it is just smarter to get a copy of whatever rules may be in place so that you know exactly what rights you have.

First, look through all the documents that you were given at closing to see if you have a separate document that lists what others are calling deed restrictions.

Second, if there is an HOA in your development, ask a board member or person active in the HOA about this. If you approach a board member, you have every right to expect that this person can produce a copy of whatever rules are in place.

Third, ask your city to obtain records pertaining to the approval of your development. Meeting minutes may show which local attorney was involved in setting up the development. If that attorney, or his or her firm, is still active in the area, ask for clarification from them. If indeed there are deed restrictions, you can feel very confident in New York state that an attorney wrote up those restrictions.

Fourth, while you are dealing with the city, ask if they collected a copy of the restrictions as they were reviewing the development. Sometimes the local government requires submission of the covenants as part of the approval, so they might have a copy.

Fifth, if none of these tactics work, visit more with the neighbors who have referred to these restrictions. See what they know about where these rules are written.

Using a combination of these suggestions surely will turn up any binding rules. Once in a while a myth about a prohibited action starts circulating around a development, so it is important for homeowners to learn the truth about any deed restrictions that pertain to them and to a future buyer of their property.

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