What is a preservation covenant/easement?
Preservation covenants or easements are voluntary legal agreements between a the State Historic Preservation Office or another qualified organization and the owner of a historic property, landscape, or archeological site. In these documents, the owner agrees to ensure the maintenance and preservation of the historic property’s architectural, historical, cultural, landscape, and/or archeological characteristics. An agreement may restrict changes to an entire property or to only a portion of it. The recipient has the right to enforce the covenant and monitor the property.
Can I still use my property?
Yes. In most cases, you will be able to continue using your property as you did before.
How long does the covenant last?
Covenants can be in place for a specific period of time, but typically run in perpetuity (permanently). In order to claim possible income or estate tax deductions, the property owner must grant the covenant in perpetuity. Permanent covenants run with the land if the owner chooses to sell the property.
What if I want to make changes to my historic property?
Many changes are allowed but you must receive written approval from the covenant recipient, and possibly the State Historic Preservation Office, prior to starting work that falls under the purview of the covenant. Most architectural covenants require work to meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation; ten guiding principles for protecting historic properties. The terms of every covenant are different so be sure to read yours carefully.
How do I get a preservation covenant?
Contact your attorney, tax advisor, and the State Historic Preservation Office to begin the process. You may need to pay for a title search, land survey, and an appraisal. The property owner and recipient should work together to write language that is mutually beneficial. When well written, preservation covenants can be very effective in protecting the important characteristics of the property while still allowing acceptable use by present and future owners. Once completed, the property owner will file the covenant or easement with the county clerk of the county where the property is located.
Listing on the National Register of Historic Places does not require a covenant.