Permanent rights of refusal for tenancy in common interests owned by family members held void as unreasonable restraints on alienation

A Massachusetts court has held that permanent rights of refusal applying to tenancy-in-common interests were void as unreasonable restraints on alienation. DiSchino v. Delanson Circle Holding, 2018 Mass. Super. LEXIS 67 (Mass. Super. Ct. 2018).

The court noted that the state had a strong policy against unreasonably long restrictions on the alienability of land but that reasonable restraints are valid and enforceable. Rights of first refusal are not unreasonable if they are not for a fixed price or a long period.

Here, however, the rights of first refusal owned by co-owners existed in perpetuity. That meant that even after an interest was transferred to another owner, it would remain subject to the right of first refusal whenever that new owner decided to sell the owner's interest. The permanency of the restraint on alienation (it would effectively last forever) doomed it.

In contrast, a restraint on partition of tenancy-in-common interests might be deemed reasonable if it were for a limited time period.