Business in a subdivision

by Minnie
(Pleasanton, Texas)

Visitor Question I live in a Texas rural area, three miles from Pleasanton. I have called every county department for answers, and no one knows the answer.

The question is can a business be established in an area designated as residential according to our deed, which states it's a subdivision without a homeowners association. And if it is not allowed, who can enforce the restrictions?

Editors Reply: It seems very likely to us that you are saying that you have a formal deed restriction, which says that no business can locate in the residential subdivision. We are going to proceed to answer the question on that basis. The clues are that you say that your deed says there is to be no homeowner's association, a detail that would be highly unlikely to be on your deed if the reference to a residential subdivision were merely descriptive.

So if you are asking about a deed restriction, it is no wonder that the county departments are not answering your question. A deed restriction can only be enforced privately, meaning that governments play no part in enforcing them. Deed restrictions do not work like zoning, which is a governmental regulation and therefore something that is enforced by the government.

Many counties and cities therefore take a hands off approach to deed restrictions and say they do not know anything about them. In many instances, that is genuinely the case.

If your county had a zoning ordinance that did not permit a business in a residential zoning district you could simply complain to the county and get action.

But in your case, you and your neighbors will have to go to court to enforce the deed restriction. To be clear, you can do this by yourself, or any one neighbor or any group of neighbors can take the action to file a lawsuit. Find an attorney skilled and experienced in real estate law, and discuss with the attorney what remedy you would like. Most people and groups would seek an injunction, which is essentially a court order to do or not to do something.

If you band together with neighbors, you can split the cost of the attorney fees. Or perhaps you will be lucky and have an attorney living among you who can take care of this matter pro bono, meaning for free.

If you have not done so, you should talk to your neighbors right away to verify that they have the same restriction in their deeds. If so, you can take collective action.

Of course when you find an attorney, ask him or her to verify the actual situation and suggest a course of action. Sometimes a letter from an attorney will convince a business person to back off, without the necessity of filing a lawsuit.

We also always suggest trying to have a face-to-face meeting with the business owner, unless that person is threatening or unstable. Although this is unlikely to be completely successful, occasionally there will be a change of heart on someone's part after a meeting.

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