Unless you’ve built in the past, there’s a chance you haven’t come across the term covenant before. Building covenants are important to understand as they will play a role in what you can and cannot build on your site. This article will cover what building covenants are, why you need to be aware of them and how they’ll affect your build.

What are building covenants?

Building covenants are sets of rules about the kinds of buildings and structures that can be built on the land. They’re also known as estate covenants, land covenants, restrictive covenants or development control by-laws). They’re usually created and enforced by the developer or body corporate you’re buying the land from (for example, if you buy property in a master-planned estate). You need to be aware of building covenants because they’re basically the rules and restrictions you need to follow. Covenants are rarely anything personal, and your neighbours will be held to the same guidelines and rules.

We should stress covenants and building codes are two different beasts. Building codes are set by the government and are much more universal than covenants. Every dwelling must comply with building codes to be deemed habitable. A covenant is between you and your developer and when you sign the contract, you’re making an agreement to follow these guidelines.

Are building covenants enforceable in QLD?

Covenants can be enforced providing there is proof you’ve agreed to them, such as a signed contract. It is the responsibility of the developer to enforce these rules, however, there can be real consequences if you don’t follow the agreed-upon provisions.

If the developer wishes to pursue the matter, they can sue you for breaching your contract which won’t be a pleasant process for anybody.

What do covenants cover?

Each building covenant will vary in specificities, but generally, they only cover external elements. What this means is you need to check the building covenant with each build, because covenants vary in terms of content, meaning some are straightforward while others are quite complex.

Some of the most common elements covered by a covenant include:

  • The size of the dwelling.
  • Amount of storeys allowed.
  • Types of external materials used (for example, brick, timber, cladding and so on.)
  • Colours used externally.
  • Landscaping.
  • Size and location of the driveway.
  • Location and size.
  • Colours used externally.
  • Privacy control.
  • Locations of ancillary structures including air con units, bins, clotheslines, etc).
  • The energy rating of the dwelling.

What don’t covenants cover?

Usually, covenants only cover what’s on the outside of a building, dwelling size, and sustainability. What you do on the inside of the building is up to you providing it doesn’t violate any building codes, laws or the covenant. Whatever stylistic choices you want inside your house are your business. Even if your taste isn’t the greatest, most stylistic crimes aren’t actually prosecutable by law.

How long are building covenants enforceable in QLD?

Unless the purchase contract specifies otherwise, covenants will last as long as the developers enforce them. Covenants often become obsolete once the house has been built, however, chances are they’re still enforceable.

Do covenants still apply on a resale?

This is one of those grey areas that will vary from situation to situation. If the land developer is still enforcing covenants and the new owner (be it you or someone else) has been made aware of this, they’ll be expected to follow the rules. Most building covenants will include some provision that specifies you will pass on the covenant to any future owners of the house and land. Failing to do so could be seen as a breach of your agreement and they’ll be able to pursue legal action against you.

However, if no one tells a new owner there’s a covenant and they haven’t specifically agreed to these terms, things can get a little interesting (or complicated, depending on how you look at it). Finding loopholes like this may seem exciting, but remember to consider whether you’ll end up annoying anyone with your choice and whether that, along with possibly going to court, is worth it.

What is the purpose of building covenants?

Building covenants are usually introduced to maintain certain standards within a neighbourhood, estate or community. While it may be annoying if something you wanted to do is turned down because of the covenants, the positive way to look at it is your neighbours won’t be able to do anything insane that could affect your resale value.

How do I find out which property or land has building covenants attached to them?

The best place to start is with the land developer or land seller. They should have copies for you to see. Rest assured, the covenants will be part of your sale contract, as the developer will want something legally binding to hold you to should you not follow the guidelines.

How can building covenants impact property value?

Though building covenants sound like a real stick in the mud, they can actually have a positive effect on property value. The whole point of these rules and guidelines is to maintain a certain standard within a community or development. If you decide to resell down the line, this can be a huge plus. You aren’t just selling a house, you’re selling the location, and building covenants can help a neighbourhood feel more up-market and desirable to potential buyers.

Our tips before buying a block of land

Check to see if there are building covenants

It really is in your best interest to make sure the building covenants suit your needs and chat with whoever’s in charge about how flexible they’re willing to be. If you’re not willing to budge and neither are they, it’s a sign that you should look elsewhere for your ideal block.

Steepness of the land

It’s not impossible to build on sloping blocks, but it does present some challenges. Therefore, you’ll need to perform a contour survey as well as hire a builder who specialises in sloping blocks and challenging builds.

Soil Quality

Soil testing can tell you a lot about your land including potential problems such as stability issues. Make sure you have the results of your soil test before your sign any contract as it could save you from making a huge mistake.

Land Zoning

Everything may look fantastic with your potential new block, but you need to check whether it is in a flood or bushfire zone. These higher-risk areas can affect the cost of your build, insurance prices and even your chances of obtaining finances.

Size and Shape

Both smaller and larger blocks have their pros and cons, so you need to weigh up what will best suit the home you envision and the lifestyle you’ll lead. For example, a large family will need more space than a young professional who isn’t home a lot.

Our tips before conducting a knockdown rebuild on existing land

Make sure you’re allowed to perform a knock-down rebuild

You might be wondering if anyone has knocked down a building they weren’t supposed to, and the answer is, surprisingly, yes. Less surprising is that people who do this get into a lot of trouble. There are reasons why you may not be able to knock down a house including:

  • Safety reasons
  • It’s a heritage-listed building
  • Local councils may have restrictions that won’t allow you to go ahead.

Rules and guidelines can differ even in neighbouring areas, so it’s always best to brush up on council regulations before going ahead with any major renovation or build.

Consider the area you’re building in

Building a house is about more than the block of the land itself; it’s about the entire neighbourhood. Will the house you want to build suit the neighbourhood or is it going to stick out like a sore thumb? For example, a country-style house might look strange near the beach. Building to suit the area you’re in will help both now and down the line if you ever decide to sell.

Keep budget in mind

The last thing you want to do is overspend on your project and not be able to recuperate if you decide to sell down the line. Avoiding mistakes, missteps and delays will help you avoid cost blow-outs. At Buildi, we can help you keep on budget and stay the course throughout your entire knock-down rebuild.

Want more tips on Knock-down Rebuilds and how much they cost? Click here for our complete guide.

Looking for some guidance on your building journey? Get in touch with Buildi today to book your free, impartial consultation.


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Building a Home

Knockdown Rebuild

Home designs

Advice & inspiration

Building a Home

Knockdown Rebuild

Home designs

Advice & inspiration