Riste v. Eastern Washington Bible Camp
COA of WA - 1980
- EWBC owns land on Silver Lake in Spokane County.
- Part of the land was subdivided and sold only to people who agreed to subscribe to the tenets of Assembly of God church.
- P's parents bought two lots, defendant issued deed to P when contract paid in full.
- Contract contained restrictions on occupancy and resale.
- Restriction 6: No residents shall conduct themselves in a manner in conflict with general practices and principles of church.
- Restriction 8: Property shall not be resold without written approval by the Seller or its agent.
- P attempted to sell the property, and D refused to remove the restrictions.
- P sued for a declaration that restrictions were invalid and for reformation of the deed.
- Trial court held for P, restrictions void.
- COA affirmed.
- Can a church restrict occupancy and resale on an estate in fee?
- Estates in fee cannot be subject to restrictions on occupancy and resale.
- EWBC (D) claims that restriction limiting sale of land to members of a church is reasonable and should be enforced by courts.
- Restriction 8 is a direct restrain on alienation. WA rule is that such a clause is void as repugnant to the nature of an estate in fee.
- Exception allows reasonable restraints that are justified by legitimate interests.
- Ex: "Due on Sale" clauses in real estate mortgages.
- Doctrine of estoppel (P knew about restrictions) does not apply, because this is a disabling restraint upon which there is a presumption of invalidity.
- Restriction 6 is also invalid, because Law Against Discrimination forbids restrictions on conveyance to persons of a certain creed.
- It is understandable that Ds want a quiet lake with no drinking or gambling or Sunday working, but the outright grant of fee in the deed is fatal to their hopes.