Massachusetts Property Owners Win Action to Enforce Agreement for Sale of Land Parcel

Agreements concerning your property can be enforced by the court if they are not performed by the other party.  In a December 15, 2017 case, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts decided a dispute between the plaintiffs and a company that owned the  neighboring property.  The Massachusetts real estate case involved an agreement providing that the plaintiffs would grant an easement to the company in exchange for a section of the company’s land.  The plaintiffs subsequently brought suit to enforce the agreement.

The agreement at issue stated that the plaintiffs would convey an easement to the defendants and allow the defendants to construct and maintain a retaining wall along the rear of the plaintiffs’ property.  The plaintiffs also agreed to arrange for another neighbor to execute a similar easement.  In exchange, the agreement provided that the plaintiffs would purchase a portion of the defendants’ lot that would square off the plaintiffs’ L-shaped lot.  The land transfer, however, was conditioned on whether it would adversely affect drainage resulting from the defendants’ proposed expansion.

The defendants argued that the agreement failed to provide many essential aspects of the parties’ agreement, and therefore, enforcement was barred by the Statute of Frauds.  The court agreed that the agreement was poorly constructed, since it lacked a purchase price for the land, it did not precisely define the location of the parcel, it incorrectly identified the owner of the parcel, and it did not contain a closing date.  Furthermore, the description of the parcel that was included did not seem to be what the parties intended.  However, the court held that since the plaintiffs performed their obligations under the agreement, and they relied on the defendants’ promise to convey the parcel, the matter was outside the Statute of Frauds.

The court also found that the agreement was not too indefinite to be enforced.  The court explained that if, when construed in the light of the attending circumstances, the meaning of an agreement can be ascertained with reasonable certainty, the contract may be enforced.  Even if an aspect of the contract is informal, obscure, or difficult to interpret, insofar as reasonably practicable, the court should allow for a construction that makes the contract rational and gives effect to the intention of the parties.

In the case, the court pointed to testimony at trial indicating that the defendants knew the easements were consideration for the land transfer, which was corroborated by the purchase and sale agreement drafted by the defendants.  In addition, the imprecise description of the parcel was inconsequential, since the evidence demonstrated that the parties intended to square off the plaintiffs’ property.  Accordingly, the court affirmed an equitable judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, requiring specific performance by the defendants.

At Pulgini & Norton, our real estate lawyers can provide legal guidance regarding your Massachusetts residential property issue.  We help people secure mortgage financing and re-finance their current mortgage, handle sale and purchase agreements, seek permits for variances, and much more.  Schedule your free consultation today by calling our office at (781) 843-2200 or contacting us online.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Homeowners Acquire Ownership Rights to Portion of Neighbor’s Lot, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published November 27, 2017

Massachusetts Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Plaintiffs in Easement Case Against Gas Pipeline Facility, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published July 5, 2016

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