Equitable Servitudes Defined
Adams Stirling PLC


An "equitable servitude" is an agreement between parties similar to a covenant or promise concerning the use of land that benefits and burdens the parties related to the use of the land. Once recorded it runs with the land and continues to burden/benefit successor owners of the land and is enforceable by injunctive relief. This is different than breach of contract actions where money damages are awarded. When a covenant involving real property is recorded, it becomes an "equitable servitude" (Civil Code §5975) which can be enforced without resorting to a breach of contract cause of action. (Franklin v. Marie Antoinette.)

Once the first buyer manifests acceptance of the covenants and restrictions in the declaration by purchasing a unit, the common interest development is created (Civ. Code §4200), and all such terms become enforceable equitable servitudes, unless unreasonable and inure to the benefit of and bind all owners of separate interests in the development. (Civ. Code §5975(a); see Bus. & Prof. Code, §11018.5.(c).) (Pinnacle Museum v. Pinnacle Market.)

Equitable servitudes permit courts to enforce promises restricting land use when there is no privity of contract between the party seeking to enforce the contract and the party resisting enforcement. Like any promise given in exchange for consideration, an agreement to refrain from a particular use of land is subject to contract principles, under which courts try 'to effectuate the legitimate desires of the covenanting parties. When landowners express the intention to limit land use, that intention should be carried out. (Nahrstedt v. Lakeside Village.)

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Adams Stirling PLC