Terms in Restrictive Covenant Should Be Given Ordinary Meaning; Covenant Enforced

In Theil v Goyings, an unpublished Michigan Court of Appeals Opinion, the Defendants installed a home, assembled partially off-site, trucked to the site, and installed on the foundation by crane.  The restrictive covenants prohibited “modular” homes and required homes to be “stick-built.”  The trial court found that the term “modular” was ambiguous and held that the home did not violate the covenant.

The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the term “modular” should be given its plain and ordinary meaning; under such meaning, it clearly applied to the home built by defendants.  The court remanded to the trial court for entry of an injunction requiring removal of the home.

The court noted that there are two, sometimes inconsistent, principles in the enforcement of restrictive covenants.  The first is that owners of land should have broad freedom to make legal use of their property.  The second is that courts must normally enforce restrictions on which other owners similarly burdened have relied.

© Steve Sowell 2017