This case arises out a dispute involving defendants’ construction of a home in a subdivision located in Michigan. Plaintiffs’ family has owned lot 21 since the 1960s. Defendants own lot 22, which is directly north of plaintiffs’ lot. Defendants purchased their lot in 1994, but they did not begin to build a home on the property until the summer of 2019.
The subdivision was developed in 1966. As a part of the development process, the developer issued a declaration of covenants to run with the land. The list of covenants included: No buildings shall be constructed closer to the shore than the timber line along Grand Traverse Bay and not closer to Joe Marks Trail than fifty feet.
Violation of Covenants
In 2018, defendants finalized plans to build a home on lot 22. After a survey crew staked the footprint for the new house, plaintiffs sent defendants a letter expressing their concerns about the placement of the house. Specifically, plaintiffs believed that the planned home was too close to the bay, in violation of the covenants.
After construction officially started in July 2019, plaintiffs filed a complaint seeking a preliminary injunction to prohibit defendants from continuing to build their home in its current location. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants were building their new house 70 feet in front of the timber line along Grand Traverse Bay, which was prohibited by the restrictive covenants.
The trial court initially granted the preliminary injunction, stopping construction of the house on lot 22. However, the court agreed to dissolve the injunction, after warning defendants that they continued to build at their own risk.
The trial court held a two-day bench trial, in which the parties presented the testimony of several witnesses, including expert arborists and foresters, and several photo exhibits. The court found that the restrictions, taken as a whole, were clearly in place to create, in part, a uniform western boundary and to preserve lot views, and that the location of the defendants’ home violated both of these clear objectives.
The court sympathized with defendants, but ultimately observed that the lawsuit was filed after the footings for the home were poured and defendants were warned that the court could find the placement of the home violated the covenants. Therefore, the court ruled that defendants were required to remove the portion of the home that was outside the timber line.
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