Brief Fact Summary. Defendant breached a purported real covenant containing restrictions in deed, but which are freely waived or subject to alteration by the grantor, his heirs or assigns.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. When the grantor reserves the power to alter the restrictions as to one lot owner without the consent of any other lot owner, the requirement for mutuality or reciprocity is not met and the covenant created is personal and does not run with the land.
The Tennessee Supreme Court announced that where the owner of a tract of land subdivides it and sells the different lots to separate grantees, and restricts the use of the lots conveyed in accordance with a general building, improvement, or development plan, such restrictions may be enforced by any grantee against any other grantee.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Is a reservation by the grantor of a general power to dispense with restrictions a personal covenant, or one which runs with the land?
Held. Personal covenant. Reversed and remanded with instructions to dismiss complaint.
The right to change the nature of the restrictions was reserved by the grantor, and the fact that it was not exercised except in the one instance does not destroy the substance of the right. No subsequent grantee had any assurance, other than the personal integrity of the original grantor, that the restrictions on any adjacent lot owner would remain in force.
The circumstances herein evidence a lack of mutuality as to the restrictions. Reciprocity of restriction is required in order for the covenant to run with the land.
The reservation in this covenant made the covenant a personal covenant between the grantor and the individual grantees. The individual grantees had no right to enforce the restrictive covenants, and the right to enforce lay only with the original grantor and does not, therefore, run with the land.
Discussion. What possible motive could the original grantor had in reserving the right to change the restrictions as to one lot while not affecting the rights of the other lots? One motivation could be that the grantor reserved a valuable right under which the grantor could sell amendments to the lot restrictions one at a time. There was no evidence of a scheme of enforceable restrictions on this case.