Note: Our Association does not take a position on the issue of 1-story or 2-story homes.
The subdivisions in our neighborhood were built by many different developers. Each has its own deed restrictions. Some have none. Visually, you can seldom tell where one subdivision ends and another one begins. You can find the name of the subdivision for any address by going to the Dallas Central Appraisal District web site. For each property, the subdivision is stated at the top, under "Legal Description".
As the homes in our neighborhood age, we see many of them being remodeled, expanded, and sometimes torn down and replaced with new construction. In the long run, remodeling and new homes can have a positive impact on our property values -- especially if they replace a poorly-maintained older home. We have many beautiful 2-story homes in our neighborhood. On the other hand, many residents prefer the look of the original ranch-style homes.
What options do you have if you want to build, or if your neighbor's house is demolished to make way for a much larger home? It depends.
FIRST, the City sets certain limits such as height and setbacks on front and side yards, but does not enforce private deed restrictions. Much of our neighborhood is zoned R-16 (minimum 16,000 foot lots). City code specifies these limits for R-16 zoned lots:
Height: 30 feet, measured to the mid-point of the roof.
Front setback: at least 35 feet from the front property line, plus about 10 feet of city-owned "right of way" at the street. Total: about 45 feet from the curb.
As long as construction complies with these and other standard building codes, the City will usually approve it. Also, the City doesn't regulate design, window locations, materials or colors.
SECOND, many of the original developers added private deed restrictions to their lots at the time they were sold. In our neighborhood, the covenants typically date back to the 1950's. The restrictions may limit the number of stories, establish greater setbacks, etc. Usually all lots in a particular subdivision have the same restrictions. The City will not enforce those; they must be enforced by other owners within that same subdivision, at their personal expense. Homes that are in different subdivisions with different deed restrictions are not involved.
A copy of the Deed Restrictions is usually provided to home buyers at closing. If you don't have them, your neighbors may have a copy. Title companies know how to find them at the County Records Building.
THIRD, once a structure is built, it can be difficult to have it removed. Some covenants require front yard set-backs greater than the City's minimum. If that is the case on your street and you see a foundation being prepared that is much further forward than the rest of the homes on the street, they may be unaware that a deed restriction requires a 40 or 50 foot setback instead of the City's 35-foot minimum. A home that does not align with the other homes can stick out and change the look of the entire block.
If your concern is 1-story vs. 2 story, first look to see if there are already two-story homes or second-story additions in your own subdivision. If there are several precedents, that particular deed restriction may be unenforceable. Homes outside your specific subdivision are probably not relevant because they would not have the same deed restrictions.
However, any property owner who shares the deed restrictions can theoretically file suit, regardless of whether they believe they may prevail in court.
FOURTH, if you see a possible violation of a deed restriction which concerns you, and you and believe that the restriction is valid, you should quickly notify the owner or builder. They may be unaware. They may agree to correct it. If that fails, you can consult with an attorney. If they believe that it is a valid restriction, a simple letter from them, explaining the restriction, may resolve the issue. If not,court action is the last resort, but it can be expensive and uncertain as to the outcome.
This is not legal advice and opinions can differ. If you have any questions, consult with an attorney.
Bottom line -- we all hope that new construction will harmonize with the look and ambiance that originally attracted us to our homes in the Hillcrest Forest neighborhood.