Where a common grantor develops a tract of land for sale in lots and pursues a course of conduct which indicates that he intends to inaugurate a general scheme or plan of development for the benefit of himself and the purchasers of the various lots, and by numerous conveyances inserts in the deeds substantially uniform restrictions, conditions and covenants against the use of the property, the grantees acquire by implication an equitable right, variously referred to as an implied reciprocal negative easement or an equitable servitude, to enforce similar restrictions against that part of the tract retained by the grantor or subsequently sold without the restrictions to a purchaser with actual or constructive notice of the restrictions and covenants.
Devisees contracted to sell several lots adjacent to petitioner property owners' land for the purpose of building a commercial development. Petitioners, whose deeds contained restrictive covenants limiting the use of the property to residential purposes, sued for equitable relief under the implied reciprocal negative easement doctrine. Petitioners claimed the restrictive covenants expressly imposed by deed upon their property were implied upon respondents' property. Petitioners sought an injunction to prevent the devisees from conveying the property without such deed restrictions. The trial court found for petitioners, declaring that the restriction covenants imposed by deed upon petitioners' property were implied and applied to the lakefront lots owned by the devisees and enjoined them from selling the lots without including the restrictions in the conveyance. On appeal, the appellate court reversed and petitioners challenged the decision.
Can the implied reciprocal negative easement doctrine apply only to a select portion of the subdivision?
The court reversed, holding that the appellate court erred in finding that for the implied reciprocal negative easement doctrine to apply, the original grantors had to have intended that the entire subdivision be similarly restricted.The court held that there only needed to be a clearly defined, restricted district to which the restrictions applied as part of the plan of development, for the implied reciprocal negative easement doctrine to apply, and that the doctrine was applicable even when restrictions applied only to certain well defined, similarly situated lots. The case was remanded for further consideration consistent with the court's opinion.