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Old 03-08-2010, 11:51 AM
 
70 posts, read 268,311 times
Reputation: 38

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My sister just called in tears.

Here's the scenario:
They bought their first house this past October in a small neighborhood in a city in eastern NC (don't want to be too specific here). There is no HOA. It is a new construction neighborhood. This past weekend, they put up a wood fence. Their next door neighbors already have a chain link fence. This morning, they received a nasty letter from an anonymous neighbor telling them there is a covenant against wood fences. (Okay, wood not allowed, chain link is allowed??? Go figure!) Anyways, besides being totally angry that the fence was laying in their yard for over a week before they put it up but nobody said anything until after the fence was completed, they also double checked all their paperwork they signed when buying the house and called the lawyer's office where the closing took place and they did not initial or sign anything showing these covenants. They had even repeatedly asked during the home buying process if there were any restrictions and they were only told they couldn't have junk cars in their yard.

So, what are their options? Do they have any? What should the next steps be?

Here are some updates:
1. The letter from the neighbor was sent anonymously, but they included a copy of the covenants with the fencing one highlighted. It says General Warranty Deed on the first page, then says recorded in Book ---, page ---, ________ Co. Reg. Also highlighted was this: "Enforcement shall be proceedings at law or in equity against any person or persons violating or attempting to violate any covenant either to restrain violation or to recover damages."
2. The closing attorney said that Century 21 should have given my sister a copy of the covenants when they asked repeatedly (but they didn't), and it will be up to the owner of the subdivision to enforce it.
3. They talked to the builder who said, "Yeah, I saw you putting up a wood fence...." Ugh! He is currently checking with the owner of the subdivision to see if they can get a contract written up to say something to the extent of when it looks bad they will replace it.


And just a note for anyone looking to put up a fence, check, check and double check before you do!!

Last edited by skywalkerzmom; 03-08-2010 at 01:06 PM..
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Old 03-08-2010, 12:02 PM
 
Location: Cary, NC
8,264 posts, read 21,806,347 times
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I'd personally ignore the neighbor's letter for now. If it really is against "something", then a person who has some sort of authority to deal with it will contact your sister. It's possible it could be a town ordinance or something and the "angry neighbors" mistakenly called it a covenant. It couldn't hurt to call the town though. Cary has some pretty strict fencing laws, but even they allow wooden fences, it just has to meet certain requirements .
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Old 03-08-2010, 12:04 PM
 
Location: Cary, NC
711 posts, read 3,707,877 times
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If there really is a convenant, and an enforcing body (e.g. HOA, town zoning, etc) why would the letter be sent anonymously? This makes no sense. I would throw the letter away and go about my day!
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Old 03-08-2010, 12:12 PM
 
70 posts, read 268,311 times
Reputation: 38
Here are some updates:

1. The letter from the neighbor was sent anonymously, but they included a copy of the covenants with the fencing one highlighted.
2. The attorney said that Century 21 should have given my sister a copy of the covenants when they asked repeatedly (but they didn't), and it will be up to the owner of the subdivision to enforce it.
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Old 03-08-2010, 12:14 PM
 
9,198 posts, read 21,155,718 times
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Restrictive covenants are recorded against the property by a prior owner/grantor of that property. Those covenants then flow with the property as it is transferred. As a buyer, you don't need to sign anything to be bound to them - they come with the property "automatically."

I would suggest to your sister that she contact whomever did the title work in connection with her purchase and the attorney who handled the closing. (This is the alleged advantage of using attorneys for closing as we do in NC, right? - They are supposed to spot and bring attention to such issues.) They should be able to tell her if indeed there are covenants that apply to her property, and provide her with a copy. If not, contact the county register of deeds who should be able to help her search.

Also, covenants don't need an "enforcing body" to be enforced. They run to the benefit of other property owners who are subject to the covenants, and presumably any individual property owner could bring an action to enforce them. (Although that is not common given the costs involved.)
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Old 03-08-2010, 12:16 PM
 
70 posts, read 268,311 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CHTransplant View Post
Restrictive covenants are recorded against the property by a prior owner/grantor of that property. Those covenants then flow with the property as it is transferred. As a buyer, you don't need to sign anything to be bound to them - they come with the property "automatically."

I would suggest to your sister that she contact whomever did the title work in connection with her purchase and the attorney who handled the closing. (This is the alleged advantage of using attorneys for closing as we do in NC, right? - They are supposed to spot and bring attention to such issues.) They should be able to tell her if indeed there are covenants that apply to her property, and provide her with a copy. If not, contact the county register of deeds who should be able to help her search.

Also, covenants don't need an "enforcing body" to be enforced. They run to the benefit of other property owners who are subject to the covenants, and presumably any individual property owner could bring an action to enforce them. (Although that is not common given the costs involved.)
...and in the case they didn't???
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Old 03-08-2010, 12:22 PM
 
Location: Cary, NC
8,264 posts, read 21,806,347 times
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I think if there were a real covenant, the angry neighbors could have easily just pointed it out and where it could be found, rather than sending an anonymous letter with no real information. I'd still probably ignore it until I received something legitimate from someone legitimate if your sister thinks she's not done anything wrong. The angry neighbors who sent the anonymous letter can then choose to escalate the situation or not.
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Old 03-08-2010, 12:27 PM
 
Location: ITB Raleigh, NC
814 posts, read 1,702,605 times
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You would need a lawyer to look at your particular situation, but covenants, as noted before, usually run with the land. They would not be in your contract. Your attorney or title company "should" have found them in their title search and told you about them, or at least given you a copy. If they did not, you have a possible action against them (not sure what the standard of care is here, so can't say this for certain). My first call would be to my closing lawyers. In your first post, you say that your sister called the closing lawyer, but not sure they asked about a covenant. Also, just because a covenant is on her neighbors property does not ALWAYS mean it is on your sisters. Also sometimes covenants have time limits, so it is very important that your sister look into this and actually READ the covenant and see if it still applies.
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Old 03-08-2010, 12:32 PM
 
Location: Cary, NC
2,135 posts, read 6,833,702 times
Reputation: 1588
Maybe the Coastal Carolina or the Real Estate forum would be more helpful.
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Old 03-08-2010, 12:52 PM
 
70 posts, read 268,311 times
Reputation: 38
added more to the OP
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