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What does this covenant mean?

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  • What does this covenant mean?

    On the land registry deed for our property we have the following covenants:

    a) Will not without the previous licence in writing of the vendor or his successor in title use or permit to be used the said property otherwise that as a private dwellinghouse or boardinghouse and

    b) Will not do or suffer to be done on the said property or in any buildings thereon any act matter or thing which may be or grow to be an injury nuisance or annoyance to the vendor or his successors in title or his or their lessees or tenants or the occupiers or any neighbouring or adjoining property.

    The property was built in 1890, the land registry entry is from 1952 (apparently a boarding house back then).

    The property is a 4 storey ex-guesthouse with a large extension on the back (1980s when it was registered as a guesthouse), so big property: there's 17 rooms in total including bathrooms and kitchens (used to be 3/4 bathrooms and 2 kitchens). It lost it's guesthouse registration in the late 90s and has been a private residence since, though was apparently rented to multiple families at one point.

    When we bought the property 4 years ago the estate agent told us there was a covenant on the property that prevented the property being converted to flats which had put off many potential buyers. At the time we had no plans to convert it to flats, but now we are looking to sell and if we could get planning permission and sell the property with planning permission it would be worth a lot more money.

    I understand the second part of the covenant is a very common covenant, so guess that's nothing to be overly worried about. Does the first part prevent the property from being converted into flats or maisonettes?

    The plan would be to either convert to 3 or 4 flats or two maisonettes. So they'd all be private dwellings.

    Reading practicalconveyancing.co.uk/content/view/7637/1130/ which described what "a private dwellinghouse" was/is has both helped and not helped! If I read that correctly prior to 2004 "a private dwellinghouse" meant a single property for private residence (so we wouldn't be able to convert to flats), but after recent cases it's not so clear.

    The original vendor was the Earl of Scarborough, I guess that means if this covenant does prevent a conversion we'd have the option of getting the current Earl of Scarborough's written permission. Or we'd have to get the covenant removed legally which I understand can be costly.