Designated Rural Area Restrictive Covenants S157

S157 notices are restrictive covenants placed on rural ex-council houses. This is also known as the 'Devon Rule.'

Restrictive Covenants

S157 Notices are Restrictive Covenants placed on rural ex-council houses. These houses can only be purchased by someone who has either lived or worked in Devon for the three years prior to purchase.

This covenant is sometimes known as the 'Devon rule' or 'Devon covenant.'

Some ex-Council houses can only be transferred with the Council's consent. 

Which houses does this apply to?

  • Houses which were bought from the Council (under the 'Right to Buy' scheme) before 22 March 1999.
  • On that date the Council sold all its houses to what is now LiveWest. In the case of houses bought from that Company after 22 March 1999, you or your Solicitor should contact LiveWest to find out what restrictions apply. 
  • Not all former council houses in South Hams have this restriction - it will usually apply to houses in the designated rural areas outside the towns of Dartmouth, Kingsbridge, Ivybridge, and Totnes.
  • Properties sold by the Council prior to 1985 will not have a Section 157 restrictive covenant. Please check with your solicitor.

Information for Estate Agents

When a former Council house is marketed, it's essential that particulars include details of any restrictions as to who can buy the property. This reduces the risk of a sale falling through because the Council will not give its consent. 

The vendor's solicitor should examine the Deeds at an early stage, to identify any relevant restrictions.


Information for Solicitors and Conveyancers

What does the covenant say?

  • On any sale of a property affected by the restriction the prospective purchaser must apply to the Council for written consent to the sale. If the Council does not consent, the Land Registry will not register the transaction and the sale will be void.
  • The Council will not give consent unless the prospective purchaser can prove that he or she has lived (which means having had his or her principal home) and/or worked in Devon throughout the three years immediately prior to the date of the proposed purchase of the property.
  • If these conditions are satisfied, the Council must give consent.

How to apply for consent

Please read the frequently asked questions and guidance before applying.

Check whether the property is subject to the rural areas covenants. You can do this yourself, or ask you solicitor to do it for you, by making a search at the Land Registry. The Council is not able to supply this information.

If the property is subject to the rural area restriction, you need consent to sell it from:

  • South Hams District Council for properties sold before 22 March 1999
  • LiveWest for properties sold after 22 March 1999

You can apply to the Council for consent by:

  • Asking your solicitor to complete a s157 Certificate
  • Completing the Statutory Declaration.
  • Attaching two forms of documentary evidence. These documents are required to show that the person(s) buying the house have lived and/or worked in Devon for three years immediately prior to the sale.
    Examples of documents that you could use are:

    • Utility bills (covering the whole of the last 3 years)
    • Council Tax Bills (covering the whole of the last 3 years)
    • Certificate of Residency letter from Electoral Registration records
    • Letter from your employer confirming continuous employment in Devon for the last 3 years

Once we are satisfied that the criteria for the rural area covenant has been met, we will issue a Letter of Consent to transfer the property.

If you cannot meet the requirements, and we are not able to consent to the sale, we will inform you.

You can download the Statutory Declaration below:

Please use the button below to send us your documents:

Send your documents

If you have any questions, please contact Environmental Health.