Real estate owners set deed restrictions on their properties for the benefit of those properties and typically in an effort to increase the value of such properties. Deed restrictions apply to the subsequent owners of the property for the duration of the initial term and any extensions. Courts may interpret restrictive covenants using the general rules of contract interpretation.
Restrictive covenants are subject to general rules of contract construction. Pilarcik v. Emmons, 966 S.W.2d 474, 478 (Tex. 1998). In construing a restrictive covenant, the court’s primary task is to determine the intent of its framers. Wilmoth v. Wilcox, 734 S.W.2d 656, 657 (Tex. 1987). Covenants restricting the free use of land are not favored by the courts, but when they are confined to a lawful purpose and are clearly worded, they will be enforced. Simon Prop. Group (Tex.) L.P. v. May Dep’t Stores Co., 943 S.W.2d 64, 71 (Tex. App.–Corpus Christi 1997, no writ) (citing Wilmoth, 734 S.W.2d at 657). Words used in a restrictive covenant may not be enlarged, extended, stretched, or changed by construction. Wilmoth, 734 S.W.2d at 657; Pebble Beach Prop. Owner’s Ass’n v. Sherer, 2 S.W.3d 283, 288 (Tex. App.–San Antonio 1999, pet. denied). Rather, words and phrases used in the covenant must be given their commonly accepted meaning. Wilmoth, 734 S.W.2d at 657.
Common law principles specifically applicable to restrictive covenants, as set forth and reaffirmed by the supreme court in Wilmoth, require that all doubts be resolved in favor of the free and unrestricted use of the premises and that any ambiguity in a restrictive covenant be strictly construed against the party seeking to enforce the covenant. 734 S.W.2d at 657; Highlands Mgmt. Co. v. First Interstate Bank, 956 S.W.2d 749, 753 (Tex. App.–Houston [14th Dist.] 1997, pet. denied); Munson v. Milton, 948 S.W.2d 813, 816 (Tex. App.–San Antonio 1997, writ denied); see also Silver Spur Addition Homeowners v. Clarksville Seniors Apartments, 848 S.W.2d 772, 774 (Tex. App.–Texarkana 1993, writ denied) (holding doubts must be resolved in favor of least restrictive interpretation).
Real estate transactions are a major investment. We invite you to contact our board-certified real estate attorney to review your documents regarding a property transaction to ensure the process goes smoothly. Our number is 713-572-4900.