Neighbours taking legal action against a small B & B - using an old covenant

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We are starting this petition because our neighbours are taking legal action to close our business down using a restrictive covenant. We believe this is a matter of public interest – as it could apply to anyone else who operates a business from home.

Just over a year ago we started offering bed and breakfast in two of our ensuite bedrooms now our adult children have left home. You can see our B & B here https://www.avonhurst-ringwood.co.uk We  registered with Dorset Council and adhered to all the government guidelines.

A few weeks later we received, a letter from a local solicitor, acting on behalf of our neighbours demanding we cease trading immediately, as they claim we are in breach of a restrictive covenant registered on the property in 1983. 

When we purchased Avonhurst we were aware of this covenant and were told it was to stop further development of the land.  We have now had written confirmation of this information, from the property developer who bought the land and built the two properties who have the “benefit” of this covenant. Indeed, he was a written signatory on the covenant in 1983.  Our neighbours are in receipt of this letter.

Despite all our efforts they are now carrying out their threats and are in the process of applying for an injunction. We have made repeated requests for our neighbours to speak to us about any concerns they may have. However, all our requests have been ignored.

We have taken legal advice throughout this case and an "expert legal opinion" from Chambers. We have been advised that the literal interpretation of the wording of this covenant could preclude us, (or anyone else involved in litigation, around case law), from any sort of  enterprise which neighbours decide to object to.

Examples include; offering piano lessons, childminding, or any sort of small business or hobby from home. The list is endless. We have even been advised that this literal interpretation of the wording could mean someone could be held in breach of the covenant for “working from home” when you are an employee.

Our B & B clients have all been mature and well behaved. Importantly, they contribute to the local economy by spending money in local restaurants and at attractions that we suggest.

If this covenant is enforced it could have much wider implications on anyone wishing to operate any sort of business from home not just a small bed and breakfast like ourselves. 

We feel this is very much in the public interest particularly given the national crisis, with businesses fighting to survive, due to the corona virus pandemic.

We would be grateful for your moral support. Please can you sign our petition and ask our neighbours to stop this unmeritorious legal action.  They could at least do the decent thing and contact us directly with any concerns they may have, rather than hiding behind the “technicalities” of this outdated covenant.

If all else fails we will in due course place this petition before the court. 

Thank you.

Diana Groves and Steve Marcham