Covenants can burden future interests, at least where environmental protection is concerned

A California appellate court interpreted a conveyance to include both a fee simple subject to condition subsequent with a right of entry in the grantor and a conservation easement limiting the property as “natural open space.” While it is not clear the court interpreted the conveyance correctly, it is significant that the court found that an easement (or covenant) can coexist with a right of entry. If structured correctly, such a conveyance would mean that a grantor can both require title to be forfeited to the grantor (or its assignees) if the current possessor violates a conservation condition and can bind the grantor or its assignees who exercise the right of entry with the same condition in the form of an easement or covenant. Canyon Vineyard Estates I, LLC v. DeJoria, 2022 WL 1183373 (Cal. Ct. App. 2022). One might think that the grantor must choose between imposing an easement or covenant on the land and creating a future interest since title must either stay with the current owner or move to the right of entry owner. The problem, of course is that covenants are subject to the changed conditions doctrine and injunctive relief is always discretionary so a covenant may not achieve the grantor’s interests. Easements are subject to regulation by the state and may not similarly not be permanent if though to be against the public interest. Conversely, if the property is forfeited for violation of a condition, then the right of entry owner gets the property free and clear of the restriction. In effect, the court allowed creation of a conveyance that subjects the current owner to loss of title if they violate the condition and impose an easement (or covenant) on the right of entry holder after that right of entry is exercised. The result is that both the present estate owner and the holder of the future interest are both subject to the limitation if the conveyance is worded correctly to achieve that result.