Although they may not know it, many householders are banned by restrictions in their title deeds from using their properties for commercial purposes. Recently, a man who converted his garage into a dog grooming parlour discovered why he should have sought legal advice before setting up a business in his home.
The man's home was part of a recently built estate. On transferring the properties to their new owners, the developer had imposed a restrictive covenant requiring that they should not be used for any trade or business. The man was unaware of that restriction when he obtained planning permission, carried out extensive works on his garage and opened his canine business to customers.
On discovering his mistake, he applied to have the restriction discharged on the basis that it was obsolete. He had written to all his neighbours and none of them had objected to his application. On that basis, he submitted that his business was not causing anyone any harm.
In refusing to lift the restriction, however, the Upper Tribunal (UT) noted that an absence of objections does not amount to consent. The restriction served a real purpose and the man had not established that there had been any material change in the character of the neighbourhood since it was imposed.
Granting his application might also set a damaging precedent, effectively giving carte blanche for other businesses to open on the estate and undermining his neighbours' ability to object. The UT was, however, prepared to modify the restriction, but only to the extent required to enable the man's business to continue. In order to maintain the protection that the restriction afforded to his neighbours, the modification was made personal to him alone so cannot be passed on to anyone else.