Restrictive covenant

From Academic Kids

A restrictive covenant is a legal obligation imposed in a deed by the seller upon the buyer of real estate to do or not to do something. Such restrictions frequently "run with the land" and are enforceable on subsequent buyers of the property. Examples might be to maintain a property in a reasonable state of repair, to preserve a sight-line for a neighbouring property, not to run a business from a residential home, or not to build on certain parts of the property.

Some are very simple and are meant only to protect a neighborhood from homeowners destroying trees or historic things or otherwise directly harming property values. Some go to an extreme and try to dictate absolutely everything a homeowner can do to the exterior, including needing permission to re-paint the home unless it will be exactly the same color. Other extremes include dictating exactly when holiday decorations are allowed up, prohibiting the raising of a hood on any car (even to check it for safety), even prohibiting any car from being parked outside a garage at all. Some have accused homeowners associations of selective enforcement of these rules, making a case only when it is something (or someone) another person dislikes. Breaking a rule, even unintentionally, can bring fines or even a lien on the home.


In many cases these covenants were used for segregationist purposes. These are some samples of that were agreed by different neighborhoods in Seattle, Washington.

  • November 1927 (Capitol Hill) - The parties... agree each with the others that no part of the lands owned by them shall ever be used or occupied by or sold, conveyed, lessed, rented or given to Negroes or any person of Negro blood.
  • April 1928 (Broadmoor) - No part of said property hereby conveyed shall ever be used or occupied by any Hebrew or by any person of the Ethioipian, Malay or any Asiatic race...
  • February 7, 1947 (Queen Anne Park, Laguna Vista, Rayville, Carleton Park) - No person or persons of Asiatic, African or Negro blood, lineage or extraction shall be permitted to occupy a portion of said property, or any building thereon, except domestic servant or servants may be actually and in good faith employed by white occupants of said premises.
  • October 31, 1947 (Laurelhurst, Victory Heights, Green Lake Circle) - No person of other than the Caucasian race shall use or occupy any building or lot except as servants domesticated with any owner or tenant.
  • Article 34 of Code of Ethics for realtors in Seattle stated: A Realtor should never be instrumental in introducing into a neighborhood a character of property or occupancy, members of any race or nationality, or any individual whose presence will clearly be detrimental to property values in that neighborhood.

In the case of Shelley v. Kraemer, the United States Supreme Court ruled that it would be unconstitutional for the courts to enforce such a covenant.


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