Owner may sue to enforce rules of a subdivision

MAILBAG

July 04, 2004

A reader owns a home in an 18-lot subdivision. The lots were sold subject to a declaration of restrictions recorded by the developer.

The restrictions prohibit lot owners from erecting temporary structures.

If a lot owner wants to construct a fence, wall or other structure or materially change the exterior appearance of a home, written plans and specifications for the project must be submitted and approved by the developer. The restrictions also prohibit lot owners from keeping commercial trucks or junk cars on their lots; prohibit raising animals for commercial purposes, and establish other regulations designed to "insure the maintenance of residential property values" for owners of lots in the subdivision.

The reader says that one of the property owners has violated several restrictions. The developer has ignored complaints about these violations. The reader wants to know how to get the restrictions enforced.

Dear Reader:

The declaration of restrictions for your subdivision states that the provisions are enforceable "by the owner of any lot."

This means that you, either alone or together with other lot owners, can enforce the restrictions, even if the developer will not take any action. The most certain way to enforce the restrictions is to file a court action against the offending lot owner. A court has the power to require the lot owner to comply with the provisions of the declaration.

Unfortunately, the declaration of restrictions for your subdivision does not include a requirement that the offending lot owner pay attorneys' fees in the event court action is taken to enforce the restrictions.

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