Deed Restrictions ....... What Are They?
When you buy a lot, you should always verify its zoning. Zoning specifies
the maximum height of buildings, how close to the edge of the property you
may build, how many buildings and rooms you can have on a particular
property, etc. It is easy to find out the zoning of a property on
Ambergris Caye by visiting the Town Clerk and asking him to look up your
parcel on a master map. But your investigation should not stop with zoning
- there may be an additional set of regulations for your property called
Deed Restrictions. This article will deal with these regulations
and how they might affect you.
What are Deed Restrictions? They are a set of rules and regulations about
the use of the land. They are not something legislated by Government nor
by the local planning authority, although before they are attached to the
land they may have to be approved by a government agency. Deed
Restrictions "run with the title to the land" which means that they are a
part of your rights and a part of your obligations when you own a property
that has them.
Here is an example of a local subdivision with Deed Restrictions, and what
they are intended to do. Palmero Point Beach Club is located nine miles
north of San Pedro. It was originally a large undivided parcel of land,
and was subdivided into residential building lots some years ago. The
developers had in mind a subdivision with medium sized lots clustered
around large open areas that would be parks or "common areas" for the
enjoyment of all owners. They also wanted buyers of these lots to have the
assurance that the subdivision would maintain its beauty and its value.
They aimed to preserve the views of the lots, and to provide for
maintenance of the private roads within the subdivision. Lastly, they
built a sizeable pier for general use, and wanted to provide a method by
which it would be maintained by all who used it. In order to do all these
things, they wrote a set of Deed Restrictions by which all owners of lots
within the Club would abide. These restrictions state many things closely
resemble local zoning, such as that homes may not exceed two stories in
height. They also state many specific things that are not found in zoning
- that only one home may be built on each lot; that no lot may be used for
commercial purposes; that no house trailers may be permanently placed on
the lots; that no junk cars or other garbage would be kept on any lot; and
that all owners within the subdivision will contribute equally to the cost
of maintaining the roads and the pier. There are a number of other rules -
these are simply an example of the type of items the rules addressed. The
people who bought lots there were generally very pleased with the Deed
Restrictions, since they guaranteed that the area would stay fresh, clean
and quiet. These Deed Restrictions gave them the assurance that they would
not discover that a noisy business opened outside their bedroom window, or
have a fragrant pig farm move in next door. In short, these Restrictions
are intended to give owners a high quality community.
There are several groups of lots with Deed Restrictions - Club Caribbean,
Spanish Reef, Flying Fisherman, and Playa Blanca are among them (this is
not a total list, just a sample). Sellers of properties with Deed
Restrictions generally know that they exist, and retain written copies of
them. If you are a potential buyer of such a property you should be given
a copy of these Restrictions and make your offer contingent on your review
and approval of them. These are not hard documents to read and understand.
They are generally written in plain every-day language, and will probably
make sense to you the first time you read through them. If you don't
understand something, ask for clarification. If you like what they say,
approve them and keep a copy for your records. If you don't like them,
there isn't much you can do about it except not buy - the seller cannot
change them to suit you - because they "Run with the title to the land".
You may notice that sometimes the zoning allows for more density than the
Deed Restrictions. In this case, the Deed Restrictions govern. If
however, zoning is more stringent than your Deed Restrictions - for
instance, zoning says one story height limit and Deed Restriction says two
- then zoning will prevail. One hundred years from now some of the things
that seemed important to include in Deed Restrictions may be irrelevant. I
once found a set of Deed Restrictions from 1898 for an area in Los Angeles.
These rules dealt extensively with where and how you could park your horse
and buggy. I have also seen Deed Restrictions that prohibit children from
living in certain communities. The former example is irrelevant, and the
latter could be illegal depending on where the property is located. In
both cases, those items will still surface in research, but probably no
longer have any force and effect. If you question the legality of Deed
Restriction, ask an Attorney.
If you suspect that there are Deed Restrictions for a property but cannot
find out for sure from the Seller, have an attorney or para-legal research
the property for you while they are doing the title search. It's not hard
to do, and it gives you the information you will need to make an
intelligent decision about your purchase.
"By asking questions you can only learn more - it is not possible to learn
...... Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the Geodesic Dome.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE MORE INFORMATION on buying property in Belize,
or to contact Diane or her husband Bob Campbell, click here.
Home | Finding Property | Deeds, Titles, & Paperwork
Financing Considerations | Building in Paradise | Upkeep | Latest News