How Can I Stop My Sold Home Being Torn Down?

Q: I’m selling my detached house and moving out of the city. I’m sad to leave it as there are a lot of memories there, and I really hate the idea that it might be torn down for a new home, especially as it is an integral part of the street’s character. Can I include a clause in the sale contract to prevent this from happening?

A:Vancouver is a hot market, especially for single family homes. The temptation is there for many people to look at downsizing their lives and turn that abode into a healthy cash nest egg for retirement or other pursuits. With the amount of money involved in purchasing a Vancouver home it’s very likely that the purchaser has the intention of tearing the property down to either redevelop it for a future sale or to build their dream home. Rich people generally don’t like buying used things.

The Facebook page Vancouver Vanishes has taken it upon itself to keep an account of how many homes are torn down or scheduled for redevelopment throughout the city. According to City of Vancouver numbers, approximately 1,000 homes are scheduled to be demolished on an annual basis. That is a staggering number, so it’s no wonder many people throughout the city are up in arms about our changing landscape.

It’s common that a home seller would want to think about making sure their family home isn’t removed from the city, there is always a very strong emotional attachment to a home – especially if a generation or two (or more) of one’s family has grown up in the property. There could very well be memories stretching back over 100 years, and who would want to see that torn down and thrown into the garbage pile? Well, nobody – except when there is a couple of million dollars available to alleviate these concerns.

So can you, the seller, write a clause into your sale contract to ensure your home isn’t torn down? The answer is… maybe, but it’s challenging. There are a couple of things you can look at doing, but they have limitations.

Restrictive Covenants

First, let’s look at registering a restrictive covenant. A restrictive covenant is defined as a right to limit the uses another person may make of another person’s land. A restrictive covenant runs with the land and binds successors in title.

Now that sounds like a good solution, until you get to the part where it says a restrictive covenant requires a servient tenement and a dominant tenement. So you can really only look at registering a restrictive covenant if you also own an adjacent property.

Easements

Second, let’s look at registering an easement. An easement can be defined as a right to restrict the use of land. But again, there needs to be a dominant tenement and a servient tenement. So again, you can only likely register an easement if you own an adjacent property.

If this is an important factor for you to consider, it’s definitely something you’d want a lawyer to look into and provide their advice.

Final Option

So, in the likely absence of owning an adjacent property, is there anything you can do? You could have your real estate agent inform any interested parties of your preference and see if any will agree to a clause in the contract. Unfortunately this wouldn’t be binding, though, unless you managed to register a restrictive covenant or easement. So a savvy buyer could very well simply use it as leverage in a negotiation, absent of those restrictions on title.

Vancouver’s original homes are disappearing at a pretty alarming rate, so I can definitely understand the feeling behind this question. Your odds of leaving money on the table do increase quite dramatically if you are to pursue this path, but money isn’t everything to a lot of people. Take the steps above and keep your fingers crossed that this proposition will be a worthwhile feature to the buyer that you connect with.