Attorney Trey Wilson - RL Wilson Law

19 December 2008

Restrictive Covenants Are Treated as Contracts Under Texas Law

Read those CCRs before you sign them! Better yet, have an experienced attorney do so.

The Texas Property Code defines a restrictive covenant as “any covenant, condition, or restriction contained in a dedicatory instrument, whether mandatory, prohibitive, permissive or administrative.” TEX. PROP.CODE ANN. § 202.001(4). Black's Law Dictionary defines restrictive covenant as a “private agreement, usu[ally] in a deed or lease, that restricts the use or occupancy of real property, esp[ecially] by specifying lot sizes, building lines, architectural styles, and the uses to which the property may be put.” BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY 393 (8th Edition 2004). The Restatement (Third) of Property states that a restrictive covenant is “a negative covenant that limits permissible uses of land.” RESTATEMENT (THIRD) OF PROP.: SERVITUDES § 1.3(3) (2000). Clearly, “Declarations of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions" or CCRs fall squarely within these definitions, and constitute restrictive covenants.

Texas Courts have long held that restrictive covenant are interpreted according to the rules that govern contract construction. See e.g., Air Park-Dallas Zoning Comm. v. Crow Billingsley Airpark, Ltd., 109 S.W.3d 900, 909 (Tex.App.-Dallas 2003, no pet); Marcus v. Whispering Springs Homeowners Ass'n, Inc., 153 S.W.3d 702 (Tex.App.-Dallas, 2005); VICC Homeowners' Ass'n, Inc. v. Los Campeones, Inc., 143 S.W.3d 832 (Tex.App.-Corpus Christi, 2004). Dyegard Land Partnership v. Hoover, 39 S.W.3d 300 (Tex.App.-Fort Worth 2001, no pet.); Scoville v. SpringPark Homeowner's Ass'n, 784 S.W.2d 498, 502 (Tex.App.-Dallas 1990, writ denied). Further, Courts strictly construe covenants “against the party seeking to enforce it in favor of the free and unrestricted use of the premises.” Munson v. Milton, 948 S.W.2d 813, 816 (Tex.App.-San Antonio 1997, pet. denied). Stated differently, “the right of individuals to use their property in whatever manner they desire remains one of the most fundamental rights an individual property owner possesses.” Rankin v. Covington Oaks Condominium Owners Ass'n, Inc. Not Reported in S.W.3d, 2005 WL 3161039 (Tex.App.-San Antonio, 2005).

Neverthless, the CCRs you receive at time you purchase a home constitute a binding contract -- even if you are not asked to sign them. Prior to closing on your home, you should have an experienced real estate lawyer review and explain the CCRs to you. You can bet that the Homeowners Association and their lawyer are familiar with the CCRs and prepared to enforce them.

Trey Wilson --Named By Scene in SA Magazine As One of San Antonio's Best Real Estate Litigation Attorneys -- September 2008 -- As voted on by peers