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Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs)



Covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) – those picky rules that dictate what you can and can’t do that seem to have a say in everything you do, including the width of your driveway, style of fencing you have and even today’s hot topic of backyard chickens… We’ll back to that.

In the U.S., CC&Rs have been influencing American real estate since the late 19th century; From the mid 1800s up until 1948, one of the main drivers of the recorded instruments was to not just to encourage, but enforce discrimination and segregation based on race and religion, most often targeting Asians, Jews and African-Americans. Thankfully not enforceable due to a Supreme Court decision in Shelley v. Kraemer in 1948, you can still find artifacts of these CC&Rs in land records here and there. Can you imagine the title of your property actually having the words “said premises shall not be rented, leased or conveyed to, or occupied by, any person other than of white or Caucasian race”? That’s from a deed in Beverly Hills, CA. 1948 wasn’t that long ago.

With that history behind us, nowadays CC&Rs survive to focus on more trivial things. Lawn maintenance? Check. Neighborly relations? Check. And you guessed it, we’re back to backyard chickens? Less foul things and more fowl things.

It's important to note CC&Rs and HOAs (Home Owner’s Associations), are not the same thing. HOAs are often the mechanism to enforce the CC&Rs by way of fines, suspensions or forced compliance. It’s not unusual to find a subdivision that has CC&Rs, but no HOA. Without a motivated HOA, the enforcement of CC&Rs is left to either the jurisdiction the property is in (who often also lack motivation to enforce) or a litigious neighbor. Fun!

rIf I had a nickel for every time a buyer asked about backyard chickens, I’d have a two dollars. Folks have been migrating out towards the county from D.C. for obvious reasons over the last few years and have been struck by the often found limitation on chickens. “Why Can’t I have Chickens?!” Well, the CC&Rs prevent it. Here are some reasons why:

Noise, roosters crowing in the morning? No thank you. Odor, chickens can stink! Pests, like rodents and flies. Disease like salmonella. The list goes on.

Personally, I’d love to have backyard chickens. The risks above are hardly an impact in my opinion. Fresh eggs are a super-food, full of fuel for your brain and protein. I’d love my kids to be exposed to the responsibility and biology of tending to chickens. Chickens also eat weeds and bugs and chicken poo is pure gold for soil and fertilizer. It’s also a move in the direction of sustainability and being a local food producer. And the idea of bringing my family’s excess, fresh eggs to friends I just love.

Alas, my neighborhood CC&Rs prevent my having chickens. (hint-hint to my excess egg having friends). If I want chickens, I’ll have to break the covenants and contend with consequences, consult the instrument itself to see how they may be changed or move somewhere that restriction doesn’t exist.

In many ways, CC&Rs are the building blocks of communities to insure a high standard of care for properties within your neighborhood, to maintain property values as well has stabilize a particular quality of life. And sometimes, to prevent you from having chickens.

 Mercifully, there are plenty of shops and local farmers where fresh eggs are indeed available. Support local businesses and farmers!

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