Has required the courts to enforce
the covenants, conditions and restrictions contain in the record
declaration of common interest development unless
Because a stable and predictable
living environment is crucial to the success of condominiums and
other common interest residential developments, and
because recorded use restrictions
are a primary means of ensuring this stability and
Presumption of validity
Legislature requires challengers to
demonstrate the restriction's "unreasonableness" by the
deferential standard applicable to equitable servitudes.
Standard (Enforcement of Restriction)
The enforcement of a restriction
does not depend upon the
conduct of a particular
Not Particular Owner, But Any Owner
Rather, the restriction must be
uniformly enforced in the condominium development to which it
was intended to apply UNLESS
the plaintiff owner can show that the
burdens it imposes on affected
properties so substantially outweigh the benefits of the
restriction that it should not be enforced against any owner.
- Court of Appeals Did not apply this standard
Accordingly, we reverse the judgment
of the Court of Appeal and remand for further proceedings
consistent with the views expressed in this opinion.
Section II (Broad Overview of the General Principles Governing
Condominiums, cooperatives, and planned-unit developments
Widely accepted form of real
These ownership arrangements are
known as "common interest" developments.
The owner enjoys many of the
traditional advantages associated with individual ownership of
Also acquires an interest in common
with others in the amenities and facilities included in the
It is this hybrid nature of property
rights that largely accounts for the popularity of these new and
innovative forms of ownership in the 20th century.
How a condominium is formed
To divide a plot of land into
interests severable by blocks or planes, the
attorney for the land
developer must prepare a declaration
that must be recorded prior
to the sale of any unit in
the county where the land is located.
Declaration (Operative Document)
The declaration is the
operative document for the
creation of any common interest
The declaration is a
collection of covenants,
conditions and servitudes that govern the project.
Typically, the declaration describes
the real property and any structures on the property, delineates
the common areas within the project as well as the individually
held lots or units, and sets forth restrictions pertaining to
the use of the property.
Use Restrictions (Viability of shared ownership rests on the
existence of reciprocal servitudes)
Use restrictions are an inherent
part of any common interest development and are crucial to the
stable, planned environment of any shared ownership arrangement.
viability of shared ownership of improved real
property rests on the existence of extensive
together with the ability of each co-owner to prevent the
Use Restriction (Limit activities)
The restrictions on the use of
property in any common interest development
may limit activities
conducted in the common areas
as well as in the confines of the home itself.
Common Use Restrictions and Mandate
Common use restrictions
preclude alteration of building
exteriors, limit the
number of persons that can
occupy each unit, and place
limitations on--or prohibit
altogether--the keeping of pets.
Ownership also entails
mandatory membership in an
An elected board of directors is
empowered to enforce any use restrictions contained in the
project's declaration or master deed and to enact new rules
governing the use and occupancy of property within the project.
Chief attributes of owning property in a common interest
of individual property rights
to the collective judgment of the
together with restrictions on the use
of real property comprise the chief attributes of owning
property in a common interest development.
States that lack legislature guidance (equitable
Some courts have adopted a standard
under which a common interest development's recorded use
restrictions will be enforced so long as they are "reasonable."
Most courts have applied what one
commentator calls "equitable
reasonableness," upholding only those restrictions
that provide a reasonable
means to further the collective "health, happiness and enjoyment
of life" of owners of a common interest development.
Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act
The covenants and restrictions in
the declaration shall be enforceable equitable servitudes,
unless unreasonable, and shall inure to the benefit of and bind
all owners of separate interests in the development."
Determine when a restrictive covenant cannot be enforced
To determine when a restrictive
covenant included in the declaration of a common interest
development cannot be enforced, we must construe section 1354.
Step 1 (ascertain legislative intent)
In doing so, our primary task is to
ascertain legislative intent, giving the words of the statute
their ordinary meaning.
Step 2 (words must be read in context)
The words, however, must be read in
context, considering the nature and purpose of the statutory
Enforceable equitable servitudes, unless unreasonable
Covenants and restrictions appearing
in the recorded declaration of a common interest development are
"enforceable equitable servitudes, unless unreasonable."
Actual Notice is provided by the covenants and declaration
The inclusion of covenants and
restrictions in the declaration recorded with the county
recorder provides sufficient notice
to permit the enforcement of such recorded covenants and
restrictions as equitable servitudes.
Legislature shifted from reasonable to unless reasonable
Shifts burden of proving the
presumption of reasonableness to the challenging party.
The courts try to effectual the
legitimate desires of the covenanting parties.
Restrictions should be enforced unless such restrictions are
Bears no rational relationship to
the protection, preservation, operation or purpose of the
Violate a fundamental public policy
Restrictions based on sex, race,
color, religion, ancestry, national origin, or disability.
Impose a burden on the use of
affected land that far outweighs any benefit.
Public Policy (Restrictions have a presumption of validity)
It discourages lawsuits by owners of
individual units seeking personal exemptions from the
Promotes stability and predictability in two ways.
It provides substantial assurance to
prospective condominium purchasers
that they may rely with confidence on
the promises embodied in the project's recorded
protects all owners in the planned development
from unanticipated increases
in association fees to fund the
defense of legal challenges to recorded restrictions.
(Court of Appeals Failed)
Court of appeals failed to consider
the rules governing equitable servitudes.
Courts will enforce an equitable
servitude UNLESS it violates a fundamental public policy.
The focus is on the restrictions
effect on the project as a whole, no on the individual
Section V (Holding)
Section 1354 is to be determined not
by reference to facts that are specific to the objecting
homeowner, but by reference to the common interest development
as a whole.
Nahrstedt could prevent enforcement
of the Lakeside Village pet restriction by proving that the
restriction is arbitrary, that it is substantially more
burdensome than beneficial to the affected properties, or that
it violates a fundamental public policy.
For the reasons set forth below,
Nahrstedt's complaint fails to adequately allege any of these
three grounds of unreasonableness.
This Case Illustrates
"It is better to be a mouse in a
cat's mouth than a man in a lawyer's hands."
Pet restriction is patently
arbitrary and unreasonable.
Human beings derive substantial
benefits from pet ownership, which promotes health, happiness,
and peace of mind.
This restriction is a tariff on
This is an unwarranted intrusion
into the circle of privacy.
There should be a compromise for
pets that do not disturb the quiet enjoyment of others.
The American dream is sacrificed for
the tyranny of the commonality.