Land use controls are created and managed by local governments and are aimed at controlling a municipality’s growth and development, thereby regulating a community’s natural resources. States delegate this authority to local governments because counties and individual communities are better situated to identify and manage community interests and natural resources by enacting and enforcing ordinances at the local level. Common land use controls include encumbrances, water rights, and zoning laws.
Encumbrances are charges, claims, or liabilities that come as part of real property. Encumbrances differ from eminent domain in that they are not imposed on property owners for the purpose of possession. However, they can positively or adversely affect property values, because they can limit the ways in which property may be used. Encumbrances include:
- Deed restrictions
Also referred to as property conditions, but most frequently called covenants, deed restrictions limit how a property can be used, including the type of structures and landscaping placed on it. They are most commonly enforced when subdivisions are developed. In communities across the U.S., builders and property developers establish deed restrictions to maintain standards for construction, how the property can be used and the appearance of houses. The ultimate goal is, of course, to maintain the market value of the houses built in the neighborhood. However, deed restrictions that are extremely restrictive can have the negative result of limiting the pool of potential buyers. When people buy houses in planned neighborhoods, they agree to rules and restrictions that have been imposed by the neighborhood covenants, which may include restrictions on the size of the home, the payment of annual fees to a neighborhood association, limitations on the ages of residents, restrictions on the types of pets that may be kept, how long garage doors may remain open, and the types of vehicles that may be parked on the streets and whether they can be parked overnight. The examples could go on and on.
Deed restrictions are often difficult to enforce, because they are generally only enforceable by prior owners or third parties to the original transaction contracts, even if the sale of property requires the new owners to agree to the established restrictions. One method homeowner associations have successfully used to enforce compliance has been to involve a third-party entity such as a community stewardship organization or a land trust group. In addition, some landowners seeking long-term or permanent compliance to neighborhood deed restrictions have found it beneficial to establish conservation easements. Also commonly referred to as a land trust, conservation easements establish a legally enforceable contract between landowners and land protection agencies for the purpose of preserving a particular property. Easements will be discussed in more detail later.
In most instances, lease agreements are made up of occupancy rules that are set forth by landlords. When leasing property, a tenant, and landlord from a rental relationship that is based upon the tenant agreeing to follow the landlord’s stipulations. These agreements are legally binding contracts that are filled with crucial business details, such as how long the tenant can occupy the property, whether or not the tenant can have pets, the number of allowed occupants, the amount of rent due each month, and the tenant’s responsibility regarding repairs and maintenance. Other examples of lease agreement stipulations include legal restrictions, such as limits on the type of businesses a tenant may run from the property and regulations for parking and use of publicly accommodating areas associated with the property.