Forster v. Hall

265 Va. 293, 576 S.E.2d 746 (2003)



An implied reciprocal negative easement arises when a common grantor develops land for sale in lots and pursues a course of conduct which indicates an intention to follow a general scheme of development for the benefit of himself and his purchasers and, in numerous conveyances of the lots, imposes substantially uniform restrictions, conditions, and covenants relating to use of the property. If such a scheme of development is proved, the grantees acquire by implication an equitable right 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.


Over many years, restrictive covenants were included in the vast majority of the deeds in a subdivision providing that no mobile homes, either single or double-wide, could be parked and/or erected on the property. The owners purchased the lots at issue in 1996. At the request of the parties, the deeds for the lots at issue did not contain the restrictive covenant prohibiting mobile homes. The owners permitted relatives to move double-wide manufactured homes onto the lots at issue. The mobile homes were placed on permanent foundations, and the tongues and wheels were removed. Plaintiff neighbor sought review of the judgment of the circuit court that structures placed on defendant owners' property were not mobile homes within the meaning of the restriction imposed by an implied reciprocal negative easement. By assignment of cross-error, the owners sought review of the trial court's judgment that their lots were subject to the implied reciprocal negative easement. The judgment was affirmed insofar as the trial court found that the owners' lots were subject to the implied reciprocal negative easement. The judgment was reversed insofar as the trial court determined that the structures placed on the owners' property were not mobile homes, and the case was remanded.


Did the  chancellor correctly determine that an implied reciprocal negative easement prohibits the placement of "mobile homes" on all the lots of a residential subdivision?




An implied reciprocal negative easement prohibiting the placement of mobile homes was created on the owners' lots. The restrictive covenant applied to the homes that were placed on the owners' lots. The mobile homes violated the restriction, although they were placed on a foundation, and the tongue and wheels were removed. The words in the restrictive covenant, "parked and/or erected," negated any distinction between mobile homes that were temporarily parked on the lots and those that were placed on permanent foundations.

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