Glebe Harbor Deed Covenants Explained Part 3

I am not an Attorney and the information provided is from my own experience / education, as well as my own research concerning Deed Covenants. This is the third post/article I have written concerning our governing documents. Deed covenants date back to England before the United States was even a country. The most common covenants are written for Home Owners Associations, Condo Associations, Property Owners Associations and Civic Associations.

In Virginia, the Home Owners Associations, Condo Associations and Property Owners Associations all have a specific set of Codes, (Laws) that govern how each association is operated. The Glebe Harbor Civic Association is governed by the Virginia Code Title 13 – Chapter 10. The most important point I wish to illustrate in this comparison is that while Home Owner Associations and Condo Associations have the legal right to fine members for covenant violations as well as place special assessments on their membership, The Glebe Harbor Civic Association can not do either and their only recourse to bring someone into compliance for covenant violations, is through a Westmoreland County Court.

Glebe Harbor Covenants

  • 1. No building shall be erected or maintained on any lot in said subdivision other than a private residence and a private garage and boat facilities for the sole use of the owner or occupant thereof.

This covenant is probably enforceable concerning the residence and boat facilities but would be unenforceable when it comes to storage sheds, as many have more then one and they are not classified as garages. This is a covenant that could wind up being decided in a Westmoreland County Court, if it were not for the Westmoreland County Code stating how many residential structures can be built one one lot, in a R2 Residential Community.

  • 2. Any garage or other building erected or maintained on any lot in said subdivision must conform in appearance and construction to the residence on such lot.

This covenant is unenforceable. All one has to do is drive through our community and look at all the garages, sheds, carports and workshops, to see that this covenant has not been enforced for years. If there is more then one accessory structure on any lot, it is now in violation of our first covenant as well. However, that does not mean it is in violation of Westmoreland County Code if the proper permits were applied for and approval granted.

  • 3. No part of said premises shall be used for commercial or manufacturing purposes, nor shall any use be made of any lot which would constitute a nuisance or depreciate the value of adjoining lots.

The first part of this covenant is unenforceable due to Laches.  Our community has businesses as well as home offices throughout our community for years and one of our Board Members has three businesses listed through the Virginia State Corporation Commission using their home address in Glebe Harbor as their principal place of business address, as of February 2020.

The fact that Glebe Harbor residents can lease their amenities for profit from their homes, may also be considered a “Home Business”, especially to the IRS. Westmoreland County does allow certain businesses to operate within R-2 communities. As per Westmoreland County Code 2-17.2. I operate a LLC business out of my home in Glebe Harbor and will continue to do so, in till such time a Westmoreland County Court forbids me to do so!

The last two restrictions concerning covenant number 3,

as well as any use of said lot that would create a nuisance or depreciate the value of adjoining lots

are in question, and would probably have to be decided by the Westmoreland County Land Use Administrator or in Westmoreland County Court, as they are very broadly written and are open to more then one interpretation.

  • 4. No residential building shall be erected or maintained on any lot in said subdivision having a ground floor area of less than 1,000 sq. ft. on waterfront lots, and 750 sq. ft. On other lots, exclusive of porches, etc.

This covenant is enforceable.

  • 5. No building shall be erected or maintained on any lot in said subdivision closer than 20 feet from front lot lines, nor closer than 5 feet from back or side lines, except boat facilities.

This covenant is unenforceable concerning new construction, as per Westmoreland County Code 2-17.4. The front setback is now 60 feet, and the sides and rear remain the same for “Accessory Structures” only.

  • 6. No outside toilets or privies shall be erected or maintained on any lot in said subdivision, and all sanitary plumbing installed thereon shall conform with the minimum requirements of the Department of Health of Westmoreland County, Virginia, and of the State of Virginia.

The first part of this covenant is unenforceable concerning new home construction and certain remodeling projects. All one has to do is drive through the community and you will see “Port a Potties” outside, when new homes or major remodeling jobs are being constructed. When our covenants were first written, our community was know for being a “fishing camp” by some locals back in the late 60s and early 70s. Makeshift toilets were not at all uncommon and this covenant in my opinion, has outlived it original purpose.

As you can see by the first word in this covenant, “No”, is specific and without exception. The second part of this covenant is enforceable, as it deals with Westmoreland County Building Codes. It would be the Commonwealth of Virginia and Westmoreland County that has the authority to make sure permitted jobs meet their requirements, not the Associations.

  • 7. No animals or birds, other than household pets, shall be kept on any lot in said subdivision.

This covenant is referring to typical house hold animals meaning no livestock. This covenant is enforceable but could be challenged under certain conditions, concerning the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 that deals with Emotional Support Animals.

  • 8. All building exteriors must be of masonry, wood, or other material equal in quality thereto, and all exteriors, other than brick or stone, must be painted or stained and maintained. Exterior materials other than brick must be new.

The first part of this covenant is enforceable,

All building exteriors must be of masonry, wood, or other material equal in quality thereto”.

The second part of this covenant,

and all exteriors, other than brick or stone, must be painted or stained

is unenforceable concerning vinyl siding. The third part of this covenant,

and maintained

maybe close to being unenforceable. In the three years we have lived in this community, there are homes that have not been maintained and their condition has degraded with each passing year. The last part of this covenant,

Exterior materials other than brick must be new

is enforceable.

  • 9. All exterior construction must be completed and closed in within 8 months of the commencement of construction and all foundations must be continuous and solid.

This covenant is enforceable under certain conditions. There are many things that can slow this type of progress that is outside of the control of the owner/builder. Lack of materials, weather conditions or “acts of God”. These are just three examples. This covenant is one of the rare examples that could hold one property owner to one standard, and another property owner to a different standard.

  • 10. No house trailers or other trailers used for residential purposes will be permitted or kept on any lot in this subdivision.

This covenant is enforceable by both our covenants as well as Westmoreland County Code concerning R-2 communities. We need to understand that many times people will confuse campers, travel trailers or motor homes, with the meaning of this covenant. The key words here are “used for residential purposes. A camper or motor home is not classified for use concerning residential purposes. Westmoreland County has a specific code that deals with trailers used for residential purposes. 2-15. Campgrounds, Mobile Home Parks and Travel Trailer Parks District (C-2).

  • 11. The grass on the lots must be kept mowed to a height not to exceed 8 inches, and the failure to do so will allow the Seller to cut and charge a reasonable cost for same to the Purchaser.

This covenant is enforceable. Our Association has been the Plaintiff or allowed others to act on their behalf in over a hundred court cases in the Westmoreland County Court concerning members being in violation of this covenant. The Westmoreland County Court online records go back to 2009 to verify this.

  • 12. Lot owners who maintain private driveways onto their respective lots shall install culvert pipe according to State specifications along the street line where such driveways meet the Street.

This covenant is enforceable as per Virginia State Code. Just as the covenants states, there is only one condition that must be met. “according to State specifications. The Glebe Harbor Civic Association has no enforcement rights to force property owners to keep them cleaned out, and that is a part of our drainage problem we have in our community. You can read the Cabin Point Covenants where their wording states the same as ours, with the added verbiage that the Property Owners must “install and maintain culvert pipe”.

  • 13. The aforesaid conditions, reservations and restrictions run with the land and shall be and remain as covenants binding upon all owners in said subdivision, their heirs and assigns.

I have been asked this question many times relating to our covenant number 13. “Do these covenants apply to me if I am not a member of the Glebe Harbor Civic Association”? Yes they do. This covenant is very specific as to who they apply to, as well as what they apply to. They apply to any property/lot located in the Glebe Harbor subdivision, not the owner or Civic Association Members.

  • 14. Invalidation of any of these covenants by judgment or decree of a Court having jurisdiction shall in no way affect any of the other covenants herein which shall remain in full force and effect.

Number 14 is not a covenant, it is a legal statement. Simply put, if one covenant is deemed to be unenforceable by a Westmoreland County Court, the other covenants can still be enforced, if they are found to be in compliance with the law and have been enforced properly, since they were established.

Board Members of any Association have a duty to enforce community covenants in accordance with County, State and Federal laws. Their enforcement must be done in a timely manner, and must apply to any member under the control of the covenants. Enforcement must do done regardless of a property owners location, their relationship with Board Member past or present, or their financial well being.

Camping in our community is not a criminal offense nor is it restricted by our covenants. The Westmoreland County Sheriffs Office will not intervene concerning this issue. The Westmoreland County Land Use Office handles these types of complaints. If you have any questions concerning camping, please call the Westmoreland County Land Use Office and ask for Darren Lee. He can be reached at 804-493-0120.

Again, I am not an Attorney and the information provided is from my own experience / education, as well as my own research concerning Deed Covenants. This specific explanation is being written upon request of others as well as my own concerns over remarks that have been recently written as well as spoken, by members of the Glebe Harbor Civic Association Board of Directors in 2019.

As with all legal matters, if you need additional information concerning our covenants, I highly recommend you contact an Attorney who specializes in this type of law. The best way to make sure you do not violate your covenants, is to read and make sure you understand them. I hope this explanation has maybe added to your knowledge concerning our covenants. You can read part 4 by clicking here. Your neighbor who lives on the inside of the curve, Dana.

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