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Riste v. Eastern Washington Bible Camp, Inc

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Brief Fact Summary. A bible camp attempted to limit the people who buy their property to those who subscribe to the tenets of their church.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. When a grantor transfers land in fee simple to the grantee, the grantor cannot prohibit the grantee from conveying land to another. Any clause in the deed which gives grantor the right to approve subsequent purchasers will be void.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

The great weight of authority is that where the fee simple title to real estate passes under a deed or will, any restraint attempted to be imposed by the instrument upon the grantee or devisee is to be treated as void, and the grantee or devisee takes the property free of the void condition.

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Facts. Washington Bible Camp (Defendant) owns land which was subdivided and sold only to people who agreed to subscribe to the tenets of the Assembly of God Church. George Riste (Plaintiff) had parents who bought property from Defendant. After the contract was paid in full, his surviving parent asked Defendant to issue the deed to Plaintiff. The deed given to Plaintiff contained restrictions on occupancy and resale, one of which was a direct restraint on alienation of land. Another restriction dealt with the religious beliefs of Defendant. Defendant refused to remove the restrictions from the deed.

Issue. May a deed place a direct restraint on alienation of land, even though grantor transferred a fee simple estate to grantee?

Held. No.
In Washington, a clause in a deed prohibiting the grantee from conveying land to another without the approval of the grantor is void as repugnant to the nature of an estate in fee when the grantor transferred a fee simple estate to the grantee.
The restraint in the deed is disabling and restrains the alienation of land.
The restriction dealing with religion is also invalid. When a provision in a deed restricts the conveyance based on creed, which is a system of religious beliefs, that provision will be void.

Discussion. An absolute restraint on alienation of land is repugnant to the nature of a fee simple interest and will be voided.

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