The “suburbs” mean “sub-divisions,” but do you understand what a “sub-division” is? When you purchase real estate in New York State, you should be sure you understand what it means to be purchasing in a sub-division.

Take the typical scenario– Developer buys a large tract of land with the idea to break it into smaller portions of land, to build houses. Often, the sub-division of that land requires zoning and planning approval from the local village or town. During the process, the planning agencies and the Developer may draft different agreements or requirements into the “sub-division map” where you are buying your house. Generally, in addition to the local laws, you, as the owner of the smaller parcel are going to be required to abide by the terms of those “declarations of restriction,” those “easements,” those statements on the “filed sub-division map.” They could be as mundane as not permitting chickens in the sub-division, to being as complex as requiring specific types of architecture. Regardless of their content, you, as the owner are responsible to live by them.

A declaration of restrictions is a set of limitations placed on the property rights of an owner. A homeowner in a subdivision, for example, agrees to comply with the declaration of restrictions in a signed agreement with a subdivision or condominium developer. These agreements run with the land and bind your future vendees, heirs and assigns.

Common provisions may include a minimum house size or that a minimum percentage of housing exterior must be brick, or that no home business or occupation be operated out of the house (especially noise producing occupations). If applicable, the owners within the sub-division have legal standing to bring a complaint against you if you fail to comply with any provision of the agreement.

To avoid violating your declaration of restrictions, it’s in your best interest to understand the meaning and scope of the terms by reading all the hard to read attachments to the title inspection provided by your attorney. As a buyer, demand to read the nuances of the title policy, read the “notes” on the map, read the declarations of restriction, understand the easements. Ask your attorney to review them and discuss them with you if you’re unclear or confused.

The Bottom Line– If you are not careful, you may be buying a house that requires you to fix the road, stop a leak in a dam, or trim your trees. Read the agreements that impact your life in a sub-division.

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