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I am considering buying a house. There's a restrictive covenant attached to it that begins as follows (emphasis mine, blanks contain the original husband and wife who were the developers):

_____ and ______ (developers) do hereby inact the following reservations and restrictive covenants on the subdivision as hereinafter defined.

The reservations and restrictive covenants herinafter set out are to run with the land and shall be binding on all parties who acquire an interest in said subdivision through the developer.

If the owner(s) of any lot(s) in the subdivision, or their heirs or assigns, shall violate any of the covenants hereinafter set out, it shall be lawful for any other person owning real property situated in said subdivisions to prosecute any proceedings at law or in equity against the person or persons violating any of such covenants, and to either prevent them from doing so or to recover damages for such violations, or both.

Later, it adds

If the developer shall fail to approve or disapprove the plans and specifications as submitted withing [SIC] thirty (30) days after written request thereof, then such approval shall not be required providing that no building or other structure shall be erected, which violates any of the covenants herein contained.

Under a Definitions section, it says,

A. "DEVELOPER" means:

(1) ____ and _____ or the survivor thereof;

(2) That individual(s) or entity appointed in writing by developer and filed with the Register of Deeds of [County] as successor developer, which shall include any individual(s) or entity who receives by sale, transfer, inheritance, or assignment the entire unsold interest of developer in the subdivision other than individual purchasers of lot(s) from the developer.

A number of the covenants require the lot owner to obtain written approval from the developer before proceeding with a project. The original named developers passed away decades ago. I do not know if their company (if any) still exists, or if anyone was appointed as their successor. While the document specifically allows neighbors to sue for violating the covenant, it is unclear how one could ask for approval from a deceased or non-existent developer. (I need to figure that out, too.)

My Question

If I were to purchase the property from the current lot owner, and if the current lot owner isn't the developer, it would seem to me that the above document would no longer apply to me because I didn't "acquire an interest in said subdivision through the developer". In other words, I would not be bound by any of the terms contained in it. Note: most similar agreements I've found do not include that clause.

Is this a correct interpretation? Why/why not?

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    Another reading would be that it means all parties who acquire an interest through the developer, directly or indirectly, which in this case would include you, since your chain of title does run through the developers. That would be more in keeping with the usual meaning of "runs with the land". However, interpreting your contract for you would be legal advice AFAIK; you need to consult a lawyer if you really want an answer. – Nate Eldredge May 23 at 23:51
  • I'm curious why this question has a negative score. Any ideas? – jvriesem May 26 at 3:59
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Every lot on the subdivision is and always will be acquired “through the Developer”

Unless the developer still owns it.

Somebody is the heir or assignee of the Developer - that’s who you need to seek approval from. Even if the Developer was at some point a company that got liquidated, the right of being the Developer would transfer to the creditors of that company.

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If I were to purchase the property from the current lot owner, and if the current lot owner isn't the developer, it would seem to me that the above document would no longer apply to me because I didn't "acquire an interest in said subdivision through the developer".

It's totally unreasonable to read this as allowing a simple transfer to evade the restrictions. The term "through the developer" was chosen over "from the developer" precisely to make clear that the purchase doesn't have to be direct. To make it doubly clear, the phrase "run with the land" is used.

The bigger question is who, if anyone, you now have to notify.

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