Friday, November 11, 2011

Sanborn v. McLean case brief

Sanborn v. McLean

FACTS
  • Title passed from developer of the 86 lots eventually to D in the lots in question.
  • There were no residential restrictions on the lots.  The other lots were used for residential purposes.
  • D started erecting a gas station and was enjoined from doing so by the P.
  • D's lot is subject to a reciprocal negative easement barring a use that is detrimental to the enjoyment and value of his neighbors.
ISSUE
If a restriction is not in the direct chain of title, will a purchaser of real property be bound by the title of neighboring lots in the subdivision?
HOLDING
-Yes.  It is a residential neighborhood and the deeds contained restrictions when sold by the developer.
This proves that there was a common development plan.  As this was a common plan, when the lots were sold, the remaining land was subject to a reciprocal negative easement, so the O cannot do anything that is forbidden to the owner of the lot sold.
-The easement is not personal to the owners, but runs with the land that was sold and is enforceable on any owner that has actual or constructive notice.
-D had constructive notice of the easement.
RULES
-If the owner of 2+ lots sells one with restrictions to the benefit to the land that is retained and there is a mutual servitude during the period of the restrictions, the owner of the land retained cannot do anything forbidden to the owner of the lot that was sold.
APPLICATION
-The D and his predecessors in title were bound by constructive notice under the recording acts.
-The D was put on inquiry notice (beyond just asking the grantor) when he purchased the property.  D could view the character of the use that was put to the lots around him.

Further Notes
Although the Court uses the term "easement", it is due to Courts using the terms negative easement and negative equitable servitude interchangeably, since they are both practically identical. The difference is: an equitable servitude is subject to the Statute of Frauds and may not arise by implication, adverse possession, necessity, and so on.  Furthermore, negative easements are often in gross (conservation), whereas equitable servitudes are never in gross. This case is an illustration of an exception by some states to the typical servitude, allowing an equitable servitude to be implied in common residential development schemes, because the benefits and burdens are reciprocal.

Class: Property.
Subjects: Notice and Common Plan Doctrine, reciprocal negative easements, covenant/servitude, implied servitudes.

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