Ownership of real property is a very valuable, and highly esteemed, concept and reality. It takes money for someone to acquire ownership of real property – even inherited real estate was purchased by a benevolent relative or friend – and so that kind of ownership is based on money. The value of money is that it comes from labor and ingenuity, and because we esteem ourselves and our labor, we tend to esteem what we buy with it, especially real estate. Because of that valuation, we would like to think, “It’s my property; I can do with it what I want to!
Land ownership today is different from when our country was being formed, back when land titles were not much, if at all, encumbered with restrictions on use. Today, land ownership is accompanied by two kinds of restrictions on use: those imposed by private contract and those imposed by the government.
In most all American communities, governments impose involuntary restrictions on land use through zoning regulations (in the Constitutional name of the public’s “health, safety and welfare”) on uses and densities of lands. Other government restrictions, on the same Constitutional basis, limit potentially toxic, environmentally damaging uses. As a landowner, you can’t really do much about these restrictions.
In addition, by voluntary, private contract, most frequently when we buy land we agree, either by direct negotiation or simply by taking title, to a large number of restrictions on the available uses of the land we are buying: residential vs. commercial; single-family detached or attached; multi-family; timeshare (floating or deeded); landscaping and maintenance responsibilities, liens for obligations to support the community and its common properties and activities, whether you can have guests, and if so their ages, how long they can visit, and parking, and pets, and on and on and on. These kinds of restrictions are normally expressed in documents typically called a Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, Restrictions, Easements and Affirmative Obligations. These restrictions may also be expressed in survey plats and in deeds of conveyance of title.
When you are thinking about buying real estate, be sure you really understand what you are getting into, because even though, if it is, your property, you can’t really always do with it what you want to do!
Author: Barry L. Johnson
Disclaimer: Nothing related in this blog constitutes legal advice, nor may it be relied upon as such. Anyone seeking legal advice should consult a lawyer and provide appropriate factual background and documents to the lawyer in advance of receiving legal opinions.