Hackett v. Steele

201 Tenn. 120, 297 S.W.2d 63 (1956)



The creation, in a building development scheme, of an area restricted to residential purposes, contemplates the continued existence of such an area from which business is excluded. That it also contemplates that business may extend to the confines of the area is apparent since it is to prevent the encroachment of such business into the protected area that the restrictions are created. Purchasers of lots in such an area buy in reliance upon the fact that all other lots in the area are subject to the same restrictions as those contained in their own deeds, and that the entire development retains its character as a purely residential district. So long as it remains possible to carry out the original purpose of the development, each purchaser of a lot has a right to the protection of his easement in all the other lots in the restricted area, in the absence of conduct on his part constituting laches, waiver, or abandonment. It is only when there has been a radical change in the conditions existing when the restrictive covenants are created, which completely defeats the objects and purposes of the covenants so that they are no longer effective, and their enforcement does not afford the protection which is in the contemplation of the parties, that equity holds the restrictions no longer enforceable.


Plaintiff lot owners sought cancellation of deed covenants that restricted use of the property to residential purposes. The area had become commercial, and they claimed that the change in the neighborhood's character constituted grounds for the cancellation. The trial court dismissed their complaint, and the court affirmed the judgment. The lot owners' complaint simply claimed that there had been a radical change in the neighborhood of their property and that the other 500 lots were not adversely affected by removal of the restrictions. The court ruled, therefore, that the complaint failed to state a cause of action and it was properly dismissed.


Is plaintiff entitled to relief from the burden of a restrictive covenant? 




Equity enforced restrictive covenants that were imposed for the benefit of a complainant's property if they remained of substantial value, notwithstanding the resulting hardship to the servient estate. The fact that the property was more valuable with the restrictions removed did not warrant their removal. Removal of restrictions was only had on the ground that the entire purpose of the original scheme had been defeated and that preservation of the property's original character was no longer possible.

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