An owner of land in fee has a right to sell his land subject to any restrictions he may see fit to impose, provided that the restrictions are not contrary to public policy. Such restrictions are often included as covenants in the deed conveying the property and may be classified as either personal covenants or real covenants that are said to run with the land. The significant distinction between these types of covenants is that a personal covenant creates a personal obligation or right enforceable at law only between the original covenanting parties, whereas a real covenant creates a servitude upon the land subject to the covenant ("the servient estate") for the benefit of another parcel of land ("the dominant estate"). As such, a real covenant may be enforced at law or in equity by the owner of the dominant estate against the owner of the servient estate, whether the owners are the original covenanting parties or successors in interest.
Defendant property owners acquired property that was originally conveyed with restrictive covenants by a grantor, who retained a nearby parcel and also conveyed another lot to plaintiff neighboring property owners. Upon the grantor's death, plaintiff daughter acquired the grantor's property. Plaintiffs sought to enjoin defendants from constructing condominiums, claiming that defendants' property was subject to restrictive covenants that prohibited the construction. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court dismissal of plaintiffs' action. On appeal, the court ruled for plaintiff. Accordingly, the court reversed that part of the court of appeals' decision that affirmed the trial court's dismissal of her claim.
Did the trial court err in dismissing plaintiff's claim due to insufficiency of evidence that the prior deed had contained real covenants?
Plaintiff daughter had presented sufficient evidence to show that the covenants were real covenants enforceable by her as an owner of property retained by her mother, the covenantee. As a successor in interest to the ratained property, plaintiff Williams is therefore entitled to seek enforcement of the restrictive covenants against defendants.