You own your home and you can do what you like with it!
Yes, no, maybe.
As a homeowner, you’re entitled to certain property rights that will enable you to more fully enjoy living in your home. So, YES … you are in control of many things when it comes to your property, what you do with it, and what takes place there.
However, there can be certain restrictions to your rights … and that’s why NO and MAYBE come into play.
Homeowner Association (HOA) covenants, local ordinances, some specific state and federal laws, and other legal situations can limit your freedom to do what you like or want to do on and with your property.
It’s important to get a better understanding of your rights, including any limitations you may have as a property owner. In today’s article, you’ll find a helpful rundown of five key property rights, and other legal implications you may face as a homeowner when it comes to land use.
What Ownership Means
First off, let’s explain ownership of a property. When you purchased your home, you would have been issued a deed — a physical document that defines your property and indicates that you own it — plus you also became the current title holder of the property.
Both the deed and the title provide you with ownership of your home and entitle you to private property rights. You could also inherit these rights if you inherit the property.
If you co-own your home with another person, such as your spouse, you are sharing the rights of your property. You will have to share in decision making on what happens on and to your property, such as getting permission when it comes to selling your home.
Your Five Property Rights
Your legal rights as an owner are also referred to as a “bundle of rights,” which consist of five different rights:
1. The right of possession —
- You have the right to hold title or to own the property. You are considered the legal owner of the home.
- However, you could lose this right if you fail to pay your property taxes or mortgage, which could lead to foreclosure proceedings by your lender or other authorities.
2. The right of control —
- You have the right to control what goes on inside your home and around your property, including how you use it, how you change it, what events you have, etc.
- It can include a wide range of things, such as putting pavers on your driveway, taking down a tree for a home addition, hosting your book club or fantasy football group, having cats and dogs as pets, or even painting your house orange.
- However, your rights are within the scope of the law. You can’t break the law on your property; any crime committed there is still a crime — such as illegal drug use, acts of violence, or not adhering to child safety laws.
- Local ordinances also can restrict your control of what you may like to do — such as noise ordinances that limit when you can play loud music, a zoning ordinance not allowing you to run a business out of your home, or a building code that mandates railings on your stairs. Some local ordinances could say your trees can’t block a neighbor’s view or you can’t keep chickens in your backyard.
- HOA’s can put limits on your control with covenants, such as restricting paint colors for your home, permitting certain renovations but not others, denying owners the ability to rent out property, or saying no to pets. You’ll need to abide by their rules.
3. The right of enjoyment —
- You have the right to live in your home peacefully and not have to deal with continuous disturbances that impact your comfort, convenience, and enjoyment. You should be able to enjoy your home lawfully and not have interference with others.
- You may feel like your enjoyment of your property is being violated at times, whether it’s from a neighbor’s constantly barking dog, having a neighbor spray a pesticide that adversely impacts your yard or shrubbery, or not having access to clean drinking water.
- You should keep a log of certain violations you may encounter, and contact authorities to help you resolve. You could proceed with a civil lawsuit or get law enforcement involved.
4. The right of exclusion —
- You have the right to pick and choose who can come onto your property — you have a say to who can visit your home or who can live with you, or not.
- However, there are limitations on exclusion when it comes to police with a legal warrant to enter your home or emergency personnel such as fire-fighters, paramedics or police responding to an emergency situation.
5. The right of disposition —
- You have the right to “dispose” — which means to sell or transfer your property to whomever you want. You can leave your home to your children or a favorite nephew in your will, or transfer it to a kind neighbor. You can consider renting out your home.
- Your right to sell your home can be restricted if you have a mortgage since you don’t own your home outright and need to pay off your loan first. Also, if you have a lien on your property, you will have to pay off that first.
- An HOA could prohibit you from renting out your property.
- If you co-own your home, your rights are mitigated since you will need to have the other co-owner agree on any decisions to sell your home, transfer your home, or to let someone inherit your home.
Other Property Right Issues
As a homeowner, you are aware that you have certain property rights and even some limitations once you move into your home and settle into your life there.
However, there are instances that could arise where you might be surprised or unsure of your property rights. Again, seek out a property law attorney if you have specific land use questions with your own property.
Easements allow legal access to your property by others for a specific reason, and some could be passed down from seller to seller.
- A telephone or power company may need to enter your property since you have a utility pole or transformer on your property. They have been granted a utility easement so that they can access their equipment without your permission.
- A neighboring house could have been granted an easement for a “right of way” by a previous owner. Such situations could include allowing a driveway or walkway across your property.You will need to adhere to this easement when you purchase your home if it is in the deed.
- If a neighbor puts up a fence on your property without your permission and you don’t contest it, you could be facing an easement by prescription. They could be granted this easement after a period of time (they can keep their fence there!),
- To prevent easement by prescription by a neighbor, make sure you get your property professionally surveyed so you know the exact boundary lines.
Eminent domain can occur when a private property is taken over by the federal, state or local government for public use.
- The government does not need consent from the property owner; however, the owner must receive “just compensation” as per the Fifth Amendment.
- Owners could face this if their property is on land that the state needs to use for a highway they want to build. The government also can acquire private property for public schools, parks, municipal buildings, shopping centers, stadiums, housing developments, etc.
Understand that you may be responsible for the costs of any damage caused by a neighbor’s tree falling on your property or home if deemed an “Act of God” — from weather conditions such as a storm, high winds, hurricane, etc.
- It’s important to be aware of the condition of your neighbors’ trees and if you have concerns about any disease or lack of care, which could increase the risk of a tree falling on your home, car, or property.
- If you have concerns, contact your neighbor with a written letter, report this to local authorities or proceed with the help of an attorney. You need to have this done before a neighbor’s tree damages your property if you want to seek compensation for any costs.
Property owners have “surface rights” but not all owners have “mineral rights” for their property, which means someone else may have the right to drill or dig for below-ground deposits, such as coal, oil, or gold.
- Usually not owning your mineral rights can be a concern if you live in a rural area or a jurisdiction that allows drilling.
I'm Brooke Taylor and I love helping first-time homebuyers and sellers make their real estate goals a reality.
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Mesa, AZ 85204
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