South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Restrictive Covenants Are Enforced Except in Case of Radical Changes in Conditions
Description Appeals court held that a church had no right to build parking spaces on residential lots it owned adjacent to church property. The lots were subject to a restrictive covenant that they only be used for private residences. There was no radical change in conditions of the property that would allow the covenant to be modified.
Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words Restrictive Covenant; Changed Conditions; Parking
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts A church owned several lots in a residential subdivision. The lots adjoined the church, which announced that it would construct parking spaces on the lots for church use. The homeowners association sued to block construction. The association noted that the lots were covered by a restrictive covenant that applied to all lots in the subdivision. The covenant stated that “none of said lots shall be improved, used nor occupied for other than private residence purposes.” The trial court held for the homeowners. The church appealed.

Affirmed. Restrictive covenants are regarded as private contractual obligations and will be enforced when the intention is clear. The covenant clearly states that the lots will only be used for private residences. Parking spaces for the church would violate the covenant. The argument of the church that church use in residential areas is to be expected is not consistent with the law. To establish changed conditions warranting not enforcing a restrictive covenant, the burden rests on the defendant to prove: 1) a radical change in condition, 2) that as a result of the change, enforcement of the restrictions will work undue hardship on him, and 3) the change will be of no substantial benefit to the plaintiff. That is not the case here.

Citation Country Club Dist. Homes Assn. v. Country Club Christian Church, 118 SW3d 185 (Ct. App., Mo., 2003)

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