Massachusetts Statute Releases Restriction on Lot Size After 30 Years

In some cases, there may be restrictions or conditions affecting the title or use of real property. The Massachusetts Land Court recently decided a real estate dispute involving the validity of a lot size restriction on a parcel of land in Nair v. Nantucket Land Council, Inc. (Mass. Land Ct. Oct. 14, 2016). One of the issues before the court was whether or not the 1982 restriction on the plaintiff’s parcel had expired under Massachusetts law.

In Nair, the lot at issue was deeded in 1982, with the defendant, a non-profit organization, named as the sole beneficiary. The deed contained a restriction on the minimum size and any division of that lot. No term or expiration date was set for the restriction, nor was there any provision made for its extension. Relevant to that restriction was the litigation surrounding the ownership of that lot and other adjoining and nearby land, since each of those cases was settled in return for the restrictions recorded in 1982. In 2012, the plaintiff and owner of the lot submitted a proposal to divide the lot to conform to a new re-zoning law. The defendant subsequently challenged the division of the lot.

Pursuant to Massachusetts statute, if a deed contains any unlimited conditions or restrictions on real property, it shall be limited to 30 years after the date of the deed or instrument. There are four exceptions to the 30-year limitation, one of which is the exception for gifts or devises for public, charitable, or religious purposes. In Nair, the defendant argued that the restriction on the lot was a gift for charitable purposes, and therefore, it was not subject to the 30-year time limitation provided by the statute.

After reviewing the plain language of the deed, the land court determined that the restriction contained in the deed neither expressly or implicitly suggested that it was a gift. Furthermore, the deed specifically stated that the lot size restriction was for consideration paid, referencing the dismissal of the lawsuits in return for the lot restriction. The court went on to find that consideration for the restriction was confirmed by the attendant circumstances, since a public press release explained that the parties’ settlement agreement giving rise to the restriction ended years of litigation regarding the ownership of the land. Furthermore, there was no evidence that any charitable deduction was sought or obtained for the restriction. Accordingly, the court held that the restriction was limited to 30 years without a charitable exception, as provided by statute, and since that term had expired, it was no longer enforceable.

A knowledgeable property law attorney can help you determine whether there are any restrictions on your land as well as offer options to achieve your goals. At the Massachusetts firm of Pulgini & Norton, our land use lawyers provide trusted legal guidance to people seeking to obtain building permits, identify easements, secure mortgages, and facilitate other real estate transactions. Schedule an appointment with one of our experienced attorneys by calling Pulgini & Norton at (781) 843-2200 or reaching out through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Appeals Court Holds Plaintiff’s Adjacent Lots Merged with Common Ownership in Zoning Case, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published July 26, 2016

Massachusetts Homeowners Win Breach of Contract Claim Against Corporation in Property Dispute, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published September 5, 2016

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