CCRs are the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (sometimes “Covenants, Codes & Restrictions”) for a neighborhood, subdivision, condo or townhouse community. They are drawn up by the builder or by a board comprised of the builder and a few others who want to set the neighborhood standards. Sometimes you’ll hear them called CC and Rs or CC&Rs.
The CCRs are put in place, usually for a set number of years such as for 30 or 35 years, with automatic extensions of a prescribed number of years (such as 5 or 10) unless the homeowners in that tract or area vote t hem out.
The weirdest time line I ever saw in CCRs 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 CCRs about?
Ordinarily the CCRs tell us that homes cannot be too small, that livestock cannot be raised at the property, that home owners may not drill for oil or water, and many other kind of common sense things. The older ones will also state that the house must have a minimum value – often so small it might make us chuckle.
Additionally, the covenants, conditions, and restrictions will state what kind of signage may appear (only for sale and for rent signs, for instance, no billboards), and normally there’s a admonishment against noxious or offensive materials such as rubbish piling up on the property.
Newer CCRs, especially in condo communities or townhouse complexes, may have restrictions on things like what color the curtains or blinds must be if facing the street (white or off white or beige only). Often they state that garage doors must be fully down except when vehicles are entering or exiting. Some communities, like Rinconada Hills in Los Gatos, do not permit you to park your vehicle in the driveway overnight – it needs to be in the garage.
Many disallow washing vehicles in the complex. Right now that’s moot since the drought has the water company prohibiting all of us from doing that.
Condo and townhome CCRs
In condominium and townhome complexes, the CCRs are crucially important! Some of them have rules like:
- no more than 2 pets
- dogs may not be of these breeds (list)
- dogs may not weigh more than 20 pounds (or some other number)
- laundry may not be dried on balconies
- storage may not be left on balconies
- laundry and dishwashers may not run after 10 pm
- only people over the age of 55 (or some other age) may live at the complex
And MANY other clauses. Always always read the CCRs !
Illegal restrictions in the CCRs
Many years ago, some CCRs 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 CC&R document you see now will have a large disclaimer stating that any fair housing violations are illegal and are null & void. (At least it should be there.)
Click on the following link to download the PDF of the typical CCRs cover sheet.
Since the C C & Rs “run with the property”, until recently we were told that they cannot be amended. Want to see the cover sheet itself? Now, though, thanks to recent legislation, those offensive restrictions can be stricken from the CCRs.
Do the CCRs matter?
For the most part, the CCRs from 50 years ago or so for houses are irrelevant because in most of Santa Clara County, they are unenforceable, even if technically still on the books. Most of the time, the newer ones 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.
Many of the restrictions actually are part of the regular set of zoning laws. For example, many condo complexes will say that you cannot run your central AC after 10 pm. There’s a noise ordinance in most parts of Silicon Valley stating that you cannot run your AC after 10 pm if the unit is within so many feet of another home’s bedroom. It almost always is.
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 CCRs for a Leep built home 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 CCRs 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!