I need some guidance dealing with “Covenants and Restrictions” and I'm hoping someone can help.
I live in a rural area just west of the city of Chicago. The subdivision covenants and restrictions provide for a 10 foot easement to be used as a bridal path for homeowners with horses. Those of us who border the bridal path are responsible for keeping it mowed and clear of trees and shrubs.
This land was once farm fields with a creek running through the middle. At some point in the past the farmer trenched the creek, installed clay pipe, and covered the whole thing with dirt so he could plant over the top. Time and nature have made the bridal path impassable where it borders my property. With all the freeze and thaw cycles from our harsh Midwest winters the clay pipe has broken apart and collapsed. The ground has eroded creating a small ravine and exposing the running creek.
To cross this section of the bridal path a person would need to lead their horse down an embankment, cross through the water, and climb the other side to get back on the path. None of the horse owners in my neighborhood are willing to do that and the path hasn’t been used in years. Since the path is no longer usable, I’ve quit maintaining that area.
Now I have a neighbor asking to ride her horse through the main part of my property to pick up the bridal path on the other side. Normally I would gladly grant permission however, this neighbor has a history of bringing legal action against neighbors and others who have denied her something she feels she entitled to. I’ve told her I don’t feel comfortable with her riding through my yard and she responded with a comment that it would be a shame to get lawyers involved. I replied by telling her I would follow the covenants and clear the brush off the bridal path. She can stick to the path.
My question is does anyone have experience dealing with covenants? How binding are they? How hard or easy is it to fight them? And what’s involved in getting them changed or eliminated altogether?
You should absolutely consult with an attorney licensed to practice in your state. Generally speaking, from a common law perspective, covenants are binding on any land owners who subsequently purchase the land. As such, unless there is some form of extreme hardship that would allow for a discharge in your state, you are liable for the covenant.
Generally speaking, the owner of a land subject to such an easement does not have to, normally, grant access to their own property. A local attorney can give you more information.
Thank you for your input Matthew. So in your opinion it's pretty hard to fight or change the covenants? As long as I clear the easement then I should be clear of any further responsibility is that correct?