Homeowners Hit Hole in One – Developer Double Bogies

On November 20th  the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that, under certain circumstances, representations made by a developer may create implied equitable servitudes that restrict the future use of property, even though no formal writing, deed, covenant, or other enforceable restrictions appear on title.

The case is Riverview Community Group v. Spencer & Livingston, Wa. St. Supreme Court Cause Number 88575-3, you can read the full decision here.

Back in the 80’s two partners developed residential property and a golf course in Lincoln County, Washington, and represented in marketing materials and other oral statements that the golf course surrounded by the homes in various subdivisions would remain a permanent fixture in the community.  Some 20 years later, the golf course was closed down and the owner started the process of platting the course into additional residential lots. Several members of the surrounding residential community formed an association and filed a lawsuit requesting that the Court hold that the use of the property be restricted to only use as a golf course.

A slim five justice majority held that such restrictions could, under certain circumstances as alleged in the Livingston case, be created by implied equitable servitude. In this particular case, no recorded writing existed setting forth such restrictions. The only “document” of record was one of the seven plat maps that noted the presence of a “golf course.”  The remaining “representations” were either oral or contained in marketing materials used to sell the residential lots. The Court disregarded the statute of frauds that generally requires all conveyances or encumbrances of real property be in writing and satisfy other formal requirements.

This case could have far reaching consequences for developers, title insurance companies and property owners. The Court’s holdings do not appear to be limited to residential property, so yes, those  of you developing malls, business parks, and other commercial properties need to be careful as well.

One Justice disagreed as to the Implied Equitable Servitude holding and three others dissented because they believed the Plaintiff, “Riverview Community Group” had no standing to bring the lawsuit for equitable servitude because the claim requires the individual participation of the property owners.

If you have any questions about this or any other real estate and/or development related questions, please feel free to contact us at 206-448-8100 or email our firm at info@sgfslaw.com .



mps1Michael Scruggs is a founding member at Schlemlein Goetz Fick and Scruggs. His practice focuses on litigation and personal injury. When he’s not fighting for clients he can be found spending time with his family and playing the drums for a local Seattle Jazz group. For more information on his practice visit our website


SGFS Named One of 100 Best Companies to Work For


This year, SGFS was named as one of 100 Best Companies to Work For in Washington by Seattle Business Magazine. Achieving this honor required a two-step process which involved being scrutinized by an external panel of judges selected by Seattle Business Magazine from the corporate community, as well as an extensive internal anonymous survey filled out by all employees. We were judged on ten broad categories varying from benefits to company culture.

It is an amazing honor. So what does it mean exactly? Considering you spend one-third of your life at work, for those of us who work here, it means enjoying our jobs. Perhaps not as obvious, it also reveals quite a bit to our clients and business associates. When you read we are innovative, forward thinking and strive to establish long lasting relationships, it’s more than fancy sounding words. This is a unique law firm. It’s not by accident that I have chosen to stay here for fifteen years.

By thinking outside the box, the partners have built a welcoming workplace. The office is pet friendly. Most days you can find a four-legged friend for a few minutes of belly rubbing time. A monthly food event in the kitchen, usually hosted by Chef Scruggs, gives us a chance to relax and connect. We like each other. Shocking, I know. This allows us to work well together and to build trust based relationships.

Health and wellbeing have always been a priority. When we moved to SODO, the partners built a full gym into our office space so we could enjoy the ability to get a workout in to the day. For those times when you just need ten minutes to blow off some steam, you can play ping pong. It’s in the firm’s DNA to work hard and to enjoy life.

The picture of four smiling people on our website’s about page is genuinely indicative of who the partners are and the culture of the company. They are authentic, real people who care about their employees and their clients. I enjoy coming to work each day. I have great respect for the lawyers and staff who I share my day with. I’m lucky to be part of such an incredible team and that is why this is one of the Best Companies to Work For in Washington.


Laurel Barton is a paralegal at Schlemlein Goetz Fick & Scruggs. She has been a vital part of our team for 15 years and counting.