The BBC this week reported that a Dorset family has been banned from selling their house to a Scottish couple because of a covenant preventing a sale to anyone from outside the area.
Apparently they weren't aware of this restriction when they bought the property, and, with all that troublesome small print involved in conveyancing, they would hardly be the first to assume that they were safe to leave it to the solicitors. So, you do have to feel some sympathy for them having found out that their pool of buyers is somewhat reduced.
Covenants are strange things. They range from the relatively benign, such the two that I have had on properties I've owned; the prohibition from keeping pigs in a flat, and the ban on turning your home into a lunatic asylum. To the potentially extremely expensive.
In 2007 I spoke to a couple, Gail and Andrew Wallbank, who had just lost hundreds of thousands of pounds because of a covenant in the deeds of their farmhouse. It states that the owners of the house are responsible for repairs to the chancel (the eastern end of a church, in which the pulpit and choristers' stalls are found) of their local crumbling church. Andrew's father, who originally bought the property, was told at the time that it was an ancient law that would never be enforced. But, unfortunately, the Church of England decided that, with coffers low, it was time to resurrect some historical responsibilities and the decreed the Wallbanks liable.
Which just goes to show that when we're told not to worry about the small print by an estate agent, a solicitor, or even a vicar, we should be very very suspicious.