In Erthal, et al. v. May, decided by the North Carolina Court of Appeals on November 20, 2012, the Court dealt with a suit arising out of a commercial stable operation located in an equestrian residential community. Although the restrictive covenants for the subdivision permitted horses and stables, the Plaintiffs contended that the commercial nature of the Defendants’ operations were a violation of the restrictions. The Court of Appeals disagreed and affirmed the trial court’s decision in permitting the commercial stable operation. Narrowly construing the restrictive covenants, the court noted that there was no express prohibition against commercial activity and that the stable operations were taking place in conjunction with a residential use.
Members of restricted communities should not assume that covenants will be read broadly to prohibit certain activity. The North Carolina courts view restrictions on land with a skeptical eye and if there is a reasonable interpretation that will permit the challenged activity, the courts will often rule in favor of the use. Contact Bill Cannon at Cannon Law, P.C. if you have questions about your restrictions.