Riley v. Bear Creek Planning Comm.

551 P.2d 1213 (Cal. 1976)



Every material term of an agreement within the statute of frauds must be reduced to writing. No essential element of a writing so required can be supplied by parol evidence. 


A subdivision contractor conveyed property to plaintiffs. The deed contained no restrictions upon plaintiffs' property. Subsequent to conveyance, the contractor recorded a document which established restrictions upon the lots previously conveyed. The contractor filed an action to enforce building restrictions, alleging that the plaintiffs violated the covenants. The superior court quieted title in favor of the plaintiffs. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of California.


Were the contractor's restrictions enforceable?




The court found defendant's right to enforce restrictions against plaintiffs depended upon whether the restrictions were mutually enforceable equitable servitudes upon the land. The court found that if the parties intended to incorporate restrictions into their understanding, it had to have been memorialized in the deed. The defendant's declaration of restrictions after conveyance to plaintiffs had no effect because he no longer had any interest in the property. The court found the exclusion of extrinsic evidence to show the restrictions were understood to be part of the agreement proper because in California an equitable servitude may be created only by deed. Because there were no such restrictions, resort to extrinsic evidence was inapplicable.

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