Property owners expect that covenants will be enforced uniformly and that owners will enjoy a degree of mutuality under the restrictions. Consequently, to permit individual lots within an area to be relieved of the burden of such covenants, in the absence of a clear expression in the instrument so providing, would destroy the right to rely on restrictive covenants which has traditionally been upheld by the law of real property.
The parties were lot owners and residents of a subdivision. Plaintiff lot owners, after obtaining the signatures of a majority of lot owners in the subdivision, filed an amended declaration of covenants that allowed them to subdivide their lot. Defendant land owners sought a declaratory judgment that the amendment was void. The circuit court entered a declaratory judgment in favor of plaintiffs. The Court of Special Appeals reversed and entered judgment in favor of defendants. The court affirmed the judgment.
Could a majority of lot owners in a residential subdivision amend a declaration of covenants to exempt one lot from a restriction against further subdivision?
A majority of property owners in a residential subdivision could not amend a declaration of covenants to exempt one lot from a restriction against further subdivision. The statement of purpose contained in the covenants governing the subdivision expresses an intent that the covenants apply uniformly to all lots within the subdivision. In addition, to allow a majority of lot owners to exempt one or more lots from a restrictive covenant, absent explicit language permitting the exemption, could have serious consequences for lot owners in the minority. The purported amendment filed by plaintiffs was properly declared invalid. The judgment in favor of defendants was affirmed because the amendment did not apply uniformly to all lots burdened by the restrictive covenants.