Western Land Co. v. Truskolaski Case Brief

Summary of Western Land Co. v. Truskolaski, Supreme Ct. of NV (1972)

Parties: AP is original owner of subdivision and APE is a resident of the its subdivision.

Cause of action/remedy sought: The following is an equitable action for an injunction.

Procedural History: District court held appellant could not build on the land. This court affirms.

Facts: Petitioner wanted to build a shopping center on 3.5 acre piece of land in SW Reno. In 1941, appellant owned the land and broke it up into lots, and holding them to the restrictive covenant that the homes be used only for residential purposes. Now, AP wants to build on 3.5 acres, b/c he says the objects and purposes of the restrictions have been thwarted by the passage of time, the increase of the city’s population, the value of the land, and the homeowners’ continued disregard for the covenant themselves.

Issue(s): Under NV property law, may the original grantor of lots in a subdivision, who binds his tenants by a restrictive covenant not to use their home for other than residential purposes, be permitted to build commercial property upon 3.5 acres of that same land?

Holding: No. AP has not carried its burden of showing that the subdivision is now not suitable for residential purposes b.c of changed conditions.

Court’s Rationale/Reasoning: After stating a general rule which thwarted AP’s contention that he had a right to build the commercial land due to population increases, traffic increases, commercial development in surrounding area increases, the court deferred to the landowners and covenantees, who said they enjoyed the peace and quiet of their homes and did not maintain the traffic concerns as those who lived outside of the subdivision.

As to AP’s claim that enforcing the covenant would be inequitable, the court again deferred to the property owners, in that there was sufficient basis that the objects and purposes of the original restrictions have not been thwarted, and that they are of substantial value to the homeowners in the subdivision. Case law supports the contention of AP only when the courts find that the landowners themselves do not hold the value of the covenant to be important, and when the courts find that the best use for the land is for commercial use as it is unsuitable for anything else. This is not the case here.

AP says the Reno city council desire to reclassify the land is an issue in his favor; the court disagrees, b/c city council intent is not binding and public policy (probably) is more compelling enough to refute AP’s argument. Also, even if the property is more valuable for commercial than residential purposes, it does not entitle AP to be relieved of the restrictions it created, since substantial benefit was familiar to the restricted area by their enforcement.

Last, the covenants were not waived by the few sparce and minor violations to the covenant, some of which are due to the covenantor/AP’s actions as the original subdivider anyway.

Rule: Even though nearby avenues may become heavily traveled thorough-fares, restrictive covenants are still enforceable if the single-family residential character of the neighborhood has not been adversely affected, and the purpose of the restrictions has not been thwarted.

In order for community violations to constitute an abandonment, they must be so general as to frustrate the general purpose of the agreement.

Did court avoid issues?: No.

Dicta: This is a case of first impression, as NV Supreme Ct. does not use any case law from NV in its decision.




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