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How do you interpret Deed Restrictions?

by | Aug 4, 2021 | Real Estate |

It hinges on the legal question of contract interpretation. Courts interpret restrictive covenants using the general rules of contract interpretation. See Vance v. Popkowski, 534 S.W.3d

474, 478 (Tex. App. – Houston [1st Dist.] 2017, pet. denied). When interpreting the Restrictions,

the Court’s “primary duty is to ascertain the drafter’s intent as expressed within the four corners

of the instrument.” Id. If the Restrictions are unambiguous, the instrument is to be understood

and enforced according to the plain meaning of its express terms. See id. Interpretation of the

Restrictions also requires consideration of the instrument as a whole. See Wiese v. Heathlake

Cmty. Ass’n, Inc., 384 S.W.3d 395, 400 (Tex. App. – Houston [14th Dist.] 2012, no pet.). This

holistic approach prevents any interpretation that would make a provision of the instrument

meaningless. See Leake v. Campbell, 352 S.W.3d 180, 186-87 (Tex. App. – Fort Worth 2011, no

pet.).

The Weaver Law Firm worked on a case regarding property located in Lake Conroe Hills subdivision and subject to the Lake Conroe Hills Restrictive Covenants. The Community improvement Association of Lake Conroe Hills, Inc. (the “Association”) operates as the property owners’ association of the Subdivision.

By way of example, those restrictions contain the following provisions:

Section 1:

  • No building shall be erected, placed or altered on any lot,

property, or area in this subdivision until the building plans,

specifications and plot plans showing the location of such

building have been approved in writing by [the Association] . . .

as to conformity and harmony of external and structural design

and quality with existing structures in the subdivision and as to

the location of the building and in conformity with the

declarations, reservations, protective covenants, limitations,

conditions and restrictions, as hereinafter set out.

  • In the event said [Association] . . . fails to approve or disapprove

such design and location within thirty days after said plans and

specifications have been submitted to it, and if no suit to enjoin

the erection of such building or the making of such alternations

has been commenced prior to the completion thereof, such

approval will not be required and this covenant will be deemed

to be fully complied with.

 

  • The judgment of the [Association] shall in all things be final.

Section 3(G)

  • [N]o building or structure shall be erected on any lot nearer than four (4) feet including roof overhang from any interior lot line

These types of provisions are common in restrictive covenants. Our Client purchased Property with the intention of constructing a new home on it (the “Home”). The Client submitted to the Association a building application for the Home together with the Home’s building plans and specifications, for the Association to review and approve pursuant to the process set forth in the Restrictions. The Association notified the Client of its approval of the building application, thereby authorizing construction of the Home in accordance with the plans and specifications submitted. Construction of the Home began after the authorization.

The Association’s decision to approve the Clients’ building plans is binding on all the owners within the Subdivision

The Restrictions create a mandatory and binding approval process for construction that is governed solely by the Association (with one limited exception inapplicable here)

Section 1 of the Restrictions creates a mandatory approval process for any construction that is to occur in the Subdivision. This process requires lot owners intending to construct in the Subdivision to submit their building plans, specifications, and plot plans to the Association prior to construction for the Association’s review. The Restrictions give the Association – and the Association alone – the authority to approve or disapprove any such building plans based on two areas of consideration – (1) conformity and harmony of external and structural design and quality with existing structures in the subdivision; and (2) the location of the building and its conformity with the Restrictions.

Even though our Client followed the rules, a neighbor still filed suit. This is why it is important to consult with an experienced real estate attorney. Our number is 713-572-4900.

 

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