Is it possible to own property on the Estate without being subject to the Deed of Mutual Covenants?
Is it permissible to construct any building on the Estate without the permission of the Estate Committee?
No. It is not permissible to build sheds, greenhouses, pig-sties, houses or extensions to existing buildings. There is one exception to this rule. It was introduced by the Estate Committee in 1939. At time of war when there exists a risk of foreign belligerents bombing Covenantors may build air raid shelters without permission from the Committee.
Are all Covenantors content to be bound by the provisions of the Deed of Mutual covenants?
No. There are a number of reasons why this may be the case: they may have inherited property on the estate; they may have purchased without being advised of the existence or effect of the covenants; they may have been aware of but not fully understood the effect of the covenants; they may have resided on the estate and enjoyed the benefits of the covenants for a period of time but decided to try and build on their land for personal gain before moving off the estate. However, it is rare to find anyone who lives on the estate who falls into any of the above types. The vast majority of Covenantors greatly appreciate the benefits conferred by the covenants and take the simple view that if persons who have purchased on the estate in awareness of the covenants seek to escape their strictures to the detriment of those who appreciate them they should not be permitted to do so. Many owners chose to purchase properties on the estate precisely because of the restrictions imposed by the covenants and rely on the Estate Committee to enforce them. To anyone who complains about the Estate Committee meddling in their affairs by upholding the restrictive covenants the Covenantors who do support the restrictions have a simple but cogent collective response: “We want to live on an estate bound by restrictive covenants. If you do not want to live on an estate bound by restrictive covenants you should not have bought a house on an estate bound by restrictive covenants”.
Would the Estate Committee ignore building work or variations to approved applications undertaken without its approval?
No. However, the committee would consider the proportionality of its response. If building work was undertaken which the committee considers it would not have approved had an application been submitted it may take legal proceedings to stop the work and/or have any building work already undertaken demolished. If the committee were to conclude that it would have approved particular building work if an application had been submitted it may decide not to commence litigation. It is of interest to note that in Lakeman v Moat (1911) Mr. Moat built a house in Meadowfield Road without permission from the Estate Committee. The court ordered that if the committee so chose it would order demolition of the entire property. The committee decided not to seek demolition. Present and future committees may not be so magnanimous.
Does the Estate committee give retrospective approval to building works?
When will a P3 completion form be issued?
When all work has been completed in accordance with plans approved by the Estate Committee. It is therefore important that if during the course of construction owners wish to deviate from the approved plans they obtain prior permission to do so from the Estate Committee.
How is the Estate Committee funded?
By voluntary contributions from the Covenantors. The current subscription is £50 a year. The subscriptions pay for upkeep of the Common Land, secretarial and administration costs, hiring of venues for meetings, general legal advice and other expenses that arise each year. Committee members are not paid and do not claim expenses.
Is it necessary to pay the annual subscription to obtain the services of the Estate Committee?
No. The same service is provided to all Covenantors irrespective of whether they have paid the annual fee. Thus even those that have not paid will have the benefit of being consulted as to whether they have any objections to applications submitted by their neighbours which may affect the value and their enjoyment of their home. Successive Estate Committees have taken the view that the committee’s rights and duties exist and should be exercised independently of whether Covenanters’ consciences allow them to benefit at the expense of their neighbours. It is perhaps astonishing to those who pay each year that those who do subscribe are nonetheless consulted, raise objections and even enter into a significant degree of correspondence with the Estate Committee while relying on their neighbours to pay for them to do so. However, the Deed of Mutual Covenant does not contain any power to permit the committee to compel payment and equitable discharge of the committee’s duties necessitates equal treatment for all.
How does the Estate Committee fund litigation?
In 2009 the Estate Committee established a Litigation Fund. A number of Covenantors contributed to a request for £300 per house. This collection was in response to a perceived need to commence litigation. That immediate need subsided. Over £60,000.00 was raised. Thereafter a number of the contributors withdrew their contributions with informal undertakings to submit the same sum again in response to any future request to do so. Others left their contribution in the Litigation Fund on the understanding they may withdraw the same at any time. The fund now stands at £27,000.00. In the event of the Estate Committee being compelled to enter into litigation it will again request funds to return the overall Litigation Fund to in excess of £50,000.00. The figure of £50K is significant because the committee has been advised that it should have this sum available to cover both its own costs of £25K and the costs of the opposing party in the sum of 25K the event the litigation does not succeed. Should the Estate Committee succeed in such litigation it would seek on behalf of the Covenanters’ to recover its full costs from the opposing party.
How is the Estate Committee elected?
Elections are held in conjunction with Annual General Meetings. Covenantors may vote in person at the AGM or by proxy. There has been a long running debate at to whether the committee must to be validly elected be elected by a simple majority of the voters who chose to vote at the AGM (whether in person or by proxy) or by a simple majority of all covenantors who are entitled to vote (whether or not they chose to cast votes at the AGM). The Estate committee have been advised that the former is the correct interpretation of relevant provisions of the Deed of Mutual Covenants. However, such is the support enjoyed by the committee that it has adopted a policy of seeking election by at least one half of all covenantors entitled to vote so that there can be no possible dispute as to their authority arising from this debate.
How do I seek election to the Estate Committee?
Notify the Secretary to the Estate Committee at least four weeks before the AGM of your intention to seek election and the committee will make arrangements for you to stand as a candidate
For how long are committee members elected to serve?
The usual term is three years. Committee members may stand in consecutive elections. The three year period of service is simply a tradition. The Deed of Mutual Covenants does not prescribe a service period. A committee member could therefore be elected to serve without limit of time.
What can I do if I disagree with a decision made or conduct engaged in by the Estate Committee?
Clause 3 of the Deed of Mutual Covenants prescribes that a meeting of the Covenantors may be convened to consider “any subject affecting the enjoyment or ownership” of land on the estate.
Does the Estate committee have any responsibility for the maintenance of hedges or roads?