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What Are My Rights as a Homeowner?

Property owners have a lot of freedom with their real property. Generally, you have a bundle of rights to use your property in most ways. That includes the right of enjoyment for the legal owner of a piece of property.

But there are certain limitations against your own property rights. For example, you may not have subsurface or mineral rights to what's underneath your home. Laws, ordinances, and covenants can all affect your rights as a homebuyer.

The following article covers many of the most common limitations on private property ownership and your legal rights in homeownership. Be sure to check with your local community for specific laws relating to your land use. Contact a local property law attorney for a personalized assessment of your property use issues.

Breaking the Law

As a homeowner, you don't have the right to break the law in your home. If it's illegal outside of the house, chances are it's illegal inside the home. That goes for drug crimes, violent crimes, and most other categories of criminal activity.

But criminal laws aren't the only things restricting your at-home behavior. Local ordinances may limit the use of your property. Local noise ordinances and nuisance laws can restrict activities. For example, you may be unable to crank up your stereo at 3 a.m. in a residential neighborhood.

The law may also require you to follow certain duties as a title holder. These include paying property taxes incident to real estate ownership. It also includes allowing law enforcement emergency access in certain situations.

Zoning Laws

Even though an activity isn't criminal, it doesn't mean it's appropriate for your neighborhood. Zoning restrictions prevent certain types of businesses from sprouting up in neighborhoods and houses from being built in business parks.

While zoning ordinances vary from city to city, areas are typically designated for residential, business, or industrial use. An owner of the property affected by a zoning ordinance must be careful about the activity they carry out. Before opening a convenience store in your garage or converting your office building into an apartment complex, you should check with your local zoning authority.

Restrictive Covenants

Property law creates other situations that may restrict your rights as a homeowner. Many developments and subdivisions have covenants (governing terms). They dictate what improvements you can make or how to use the land. For example, some homeowners associations (HOAs) demand a certain level of lawn maintenance or prohibit owners from affixing satellite dishes to homes.

Gated communities are particularly notorious for their restrictive covenants. These residential communities may limit:

  • The color you can paint your house
  • The way you use your yard
  • Where you store your garbage cans and personal property
  • Your ability to create a tenancy (rental)


Easements can also affect your rights as a homeowner. An easement is a property interest allowing another person to use the property. It can also act as a right of way. For example, an easement on your property may allow:

  1. Your neighbor to cross your land, or
  2. A company to maintain power lines on it.

While it may be an encumbrance (legal burden), an easement is not a right of possession or right of control to land. You can consult with a legal expert to determine whether:

  • You have ownership rights to an easement
  • There's an easement on your land
  • You have the right of exclusion against certain trespassers on your land

Speak With an Attorney to Learn More About Your Rights as a Homeowner

Your home is your castle, but there are many situations in which a neighbor or other party can limit your activities on your own land. Contact a local real estate attorney to learn about the rights and limitations you have in using your land.

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Contact a qualified real estate to help you navigate land use issues including zoning, easements and eminent domain.

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