CC & Rs are “Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions” (sometimes “Covenants, Codes & Restriction”s). They are a set of rules drawn up for a neighborhood or subdivision by the builder or by a board comprised of the builder and a few others who want to set the neighborhood standards to keep property values up.
The C, C & Rs are put in place, usually for a set number of years such as for 30 or 35 years, and most of the homes in Silicon Valley do have CC & Rs and most of them are now expired. It’s always for a finite period of time, though usually extendable if the neighbors vote it in again (which I have never seen done), but sometimes gauged by something perhaps not so predictable. The weirdest time line I ever saw referenced something like “until the death of the last living great grandchild of…” and it mentioned one of the Kennedys. Odd, but apparently legit.
What are the CC & Rs about?
Here’s a peek at part of one –
Usually the CC & Rs dictate the minimum size of a home (e.g., the home must be at least “X” number of square feet) that may be built in the subdivision, the setbacks (homes must be so many feet from the street and property lines), what kind of signage may appear (only for sale and for rent signs, for instance), and normally there’s a restriction on farm animals so that people may not raise goats, sheep, chickens and so on in their backyards or breed animals professionally.
Illegal restrictions in the CCRs
Many years ago, some C, C & Rs also had restrictions on who might buy or live in a neighborhood (racial, religious and other restrictions). This is illegal today, of course, and so the first page of any C C and R document you see now will have a large disclaimer stating , in a nutshell, any fair housing violations are illegal and are null & void. (At least it should be there.) Since the C C & Rs “run with the property”, they supposedly cannot be amended (though I have never been convinced that they couldn’t be – just that the government chooses to require the disclaimer instead). Want to see the cover sheet itself? I’ve uploaded a typical version of one – though often they are in large font and red ink. Click on the following link to download the PDF of the typical CCRs cover sheet.
What’s illegal? Surprisingly, not every kind of discrimination is illegal! I have many attorney clients and suggest to them that they keep their profession quiet when home buying or selling because there is a lot of fear and prejudice around being in transaction with an attorney. Only “protected classes” – race, religion, handicap, sexual orientation, national origin, and a few others – are those which are protected under the law. To see the comprehensive list, you’ll want to access Section 12956.2 of the Government Code.
Do the C C & Rs matter?
For the most part, they are irrelevant in older neighborhoods because in most of Santa Clara County, they have long since expired. Most of the time, the newer ones aren’t so draconian, but they may restrict things like washing your car, what color you can have on curtains facing the street, paint colors for your house, or whether you can wash your car in the neighborhood.
They can be a little helpful, though, as sometimes the setbacks (which may still be enforceable) may be stated more clearly in the CCRs than in the preliminary title report or elsewhere.
Often, too, they hide some historically interesting tidbits. Awhile back I read the C C & Rs for a Leep built home (a very good builder of tract housing in the Santa Clara Valley) in the Cambrian Park area of San Jose. I know that there’s an area of Campbell (that has a Los Gatos mailing address) with Leep homes; one street in this area near the Saratoga and Los Gatos border is named Elwood and another Bearden. Today I learned that there were two builders of these homes, Elwood J. Leep and Leonard Bearden, Sr. So that was a fun tidbit – I have sold many “Leep homes” over the years, have known them to be well built but never had the builders’ first names before.
To summarize, in most cases, the C C & Rs for older neighborhoods won’t provide you with a lot of helpful information, but do try to obtain them anyway when buying a home in Santa Clara County.(With younger homes, they are probably in effect so it’s extremely important to read those carefully!) There may be information that is interesting, if not necessarily useful – and you never know, there may be a tidbit of helpful information buried in there along with the strange admonitions that homes not cost less than $10,000 when sold. That’s the least of our worries today!