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Sanborn v. McLean

Citation. 233 Mich. 227, 206 N.W. 496, 1925 Mich. 60 A.L.R. 1212
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Brief Fact Summary.

The Defendants, Christina and John McLean (Defendants), owned property and started to build a gas station on the rear of the lot behind their home.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Reciprocal easements start with a common owner and are operative upon use by any owner having actual or constructive notice of the restrictions upon land sold by a common owner. Constructive notice can be implied by the obvious characteristics that put a duty on an owner to inquire (inquiry notice).


Collingwood Avenue was a “high-grade” residential street with both single and multi-family housing. All of the owners and the Defendants trace title to the proprietors of the subdivision, a common owner. The subdivision was planned strictly for residential purposes. Some of the conveyances contained express restrictions imposed for “the benefit of the lands held by the grantors to carry out the scheme of a residential district.” The Defendants’ title was unrestricted.


Where no restrictions appear in the chain of title, can a reciprocal negative easement exist by inquiry notice as to a restriction concerning the uniform residential character of the subdivision?


Defendants had inquiry notice that there was a general plan of the common owner to restrict the area to residential property. Defendants did not have to ask their neighbors about the restrictions, but had to look around at all the residences built in accordance with a general plan. From that, Defendants were put on inquiry notice that there was a record and reason for such general conformation.


Implies notice of a reciprocal negative easement through general conformity of the neighborhood. The common owner can burden all the lots by a general plan for the area to be residential, even though the restrictions were only expressly conveyed to particular lots.

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