Summary of Voorhees Gun Club v. Tompkins, Ct of App. NY 1993
Facts: Plaintiff Voorhees signed a contract with def Tompkins for the purchase of a portion of def’s property for $38,000. Under warranty deed, subject to all covenants, conditions, restrictions, and easements of record, and also to zoning and environmental protection laws. The land had to be used for recreational purposes. Pl demanded that def comply with subdivision regulations. Def demanded pl close or be a anticipatory breach of contract. Pl failed to close, def canceled the contract, and returned $5000 deposit to Pl.
Issue: Whether lack of subdivision approval constitutes a cloud on the title and renders the same unmarketable?
Procedure: Plaintiff initiated action for specific performance or damages, and asked for summary. S. Ct. ordered specific performance, and directed subdivision approval be requested and close thereafter. Failure to obtain approval rendered title unmarketable. Appellate Division affirmed.
Rule: Marketable title is a title free from reasonable doubt, but not from every doubt. It is also no objection such as would interfere with the sale or with the market value.
Ct. Rationale: Plaintiff agreed, by contract, to purchase the property subject to the zoning laws. Defendant did not warrant or represent that it would obtain subdivision approval. Failure to obtain the approval is in violation of the subdivisions’ regulations, but that violation did not make the title unmarketable. A zoning law, which is related to a subdivision regulation, which regulates the use of the property is, generally, not an encumbrance.
PL A: The contract provides that the seller warrants the property will not be in violation of any zoning ordinance. The subdivision is a zoning ordinance.
Def A: Defendant did not warrant that it would obtain subdivision approval, and the contract reflects the same.