Whether you’re buying your first home or are moving on up the property ladder, it’s vital to know the laws that directly affect your property – and how you can use your home. From the right to quiet enjoyment to easements buried in deeds, getting really clear on these laws means you’ll know your rights – and how to safeguard them.
The Rights of Possession and Control
The two most basic rights you have as a homeowner are the rights of possession and control. The first is the guarantee that you have the right to the title to the property. However, it’s important to remember that this right can be lost under certain circumstances, such as if you fall behind on your mortgage payments or fail to pay any relevant property taxes. If either of these things happens, your lender or the taxing authority can begin foreclosing proceedings, meaning you could lose your property.
The right of control means that you can control what happens on your property and its land, but only if these things are within the law. It’s important to find out what is and isn’t covered under this tenet; for example, in many cases, you’ll need permission from the local authorities to run a home-based business from your property.
Do I Need to Purchase Homeowners Insurance?
Homeowners insurance is a vital way of protecting your property in the event of damage caused by, say, a windstorm or fire. It also protects your belongings, including those outside the home, like your laptop, bike, and phone. Homeowners insurance is not required by law, although most mortgage lenders will require some basic form of homeowners insurance, so it’s a good idea to get covered.
And that’s not the only thing that homeowners insurance can indemnify you against. Should the worst happen and a visitor gets injured on your property and decides to sue for medical damages, the personal liability cover offered by this type of insurance covers you against lawsuits.
Be Mindful of Homeowners Association Restrictions
If your neighborhood is governed by a Homeowners Association (HOA) you must remain aware and mindful of any restrictions that the organization has in regards to your property. HOAs have the legal right, in most states, to set and enforce regulations as these actions are designed to protect the quality of life and property values of the neighborhood.
Common restrictions that an HOA can set include forbidding you to park an RV on your driveway and the type of siding that you’re permitted to put on your house. Associations may even have a say on whether or not you can erect a fence on your property, so proceed with caution!
The Right to Quiet Enjoyment
This law means you have the right to enjoy your property without that enjoyment being violated. This could be by, for example, not having to put up with your neighbor causing damage to your lawn by spraying herbicides in his yard that waft over onto your garden. It also covers incidents like nearby factories polluting a water supply.
If, as a homeowner, you feel your right to quiet enjoyment is being threatened, you can report the issue to local law enforcement. If this doesn’t resolve matters, a civil lawsuit may be filed against the offender.
Know Your Easements
Easements represent legal interests in your property owned by someone else. Watch out for these, as they can be recorded on deeds and thereby passed from seller to seller. If you buy a house with an easement in place, you’re legally obliged to abide by it.
What could an easement involve? They’re often granted to public utility companies, ensuring they always have the right to access a part of the property as needed. Alternatively, you may find that a former owner granted an easement to a neighbor, allowing a driveway to be put across what is now your property.
The Right of Disposition
This means that you have the right to sell or transfer your property as you see fit. You can choose to rent out your house or deed it to your kids in your will. However, it’s important to note that if you have a mortgage on your home, these rights are restricted – plus, some HOAs prohibit owners in their neighborhood from renting out their properties.
The Takeaway: Know the Laws Affecting Your Property for Ultimate Peace of Mind
The unknown is the scariest thing of all and – in the world of property – the thing that tends to lead to unexpected expense and hassle. There are lots of laws around property ownership, and some are lesser known than others. Taking the time to ensure you properly understand all the laws that affect your enjoyment of your potential new home is likely to pay off – literally.