Restrictions, often known as covenants, bind landowners to specific provisions concerning their property. In a December 5, 2017 Massachusetts real estate case, the Appeals Court considered whether certain restrictions on land had expired, or whether the restrictions had been legally and effectively extended. The plaintiffs in the case filed an action seeking to enforce the restrictions against the defendants. After the lower court concluded they had expired and ruled in favor of the defendants, the plaintiffs appealed.
The original developer of the land had executed and recorded an agreement providing protective covenants and easements for future owners of the lots in 1980. Thereafter, the developer sold off the lots, subject to the agreement that limited construction on each lot to one single-family dwelling with a two- or three-car garage, for a period of 30 years. The agreement also provided that the covenants may be amended or revoked by the agreement of two-thirds of all of the owners of the lots.
In 2001, more than two-thirds of the lot owners executed an agreement to extend the covenants until 2010, and they recorded the extension in 2002. The agreement also provided that the covenants could be extended for further periods of not more than 20 years by the agreement of two-thirds of the lot owners. When the plaintiffs filed their action to enforce the restrictions, the defendants argued in response that the restrictions expired in 2010, after 30 years.