Deed restriction for veterans only

by Robert
(Scottsdale, Arizona)

Visitor Question: Is it possible to create a deed restriction to allow only veterans or people living with (married to or children of) veterans?

Editors Respond: It is possible create a deed restriction to enforce almost anything that the property owner wishes to impose on future owners, unless of course it is something that is ruled by the courts to be illegal.

So we would say that yes, you could create a deed restriction forbidding the sale of the property to anyone other than a veteran, veteran's surviving spouse, or veteran's child, for instance.

What you could not do is to stipulate that these veterans must be Caucasian veterans, African-American veterans, or Asian veterans, because racial covenants have been illegal for many years now.

If you are considering doing this, think carefully about unintended consequences. Talk with the attorney who will draft this deed restriction for you about what would happen if the veteran later gets a divorce. Can the spouse get the house as part of the settlement, or must the veteran keep the house? Or what happens if the veteran dies with no heirs related by blood or marriage, and yet has a valid will specifying that the property would go to a friend or a church, neither of which could qualify as a veteran?

You see that this type of restriction could lead to some tricky situations. All of them can be addressed by a competent attorney, but you really need to have a meeting in which some of these possibilities are discussed.

It's important that you think through what you are trying to accomplish with this potential deed restriction. If it's a relatively short-term goal of providing a particular type of housing for a veteran, you might just be able to say that the first sale, or sales within a certain number of years, would have to conform to the veterans only covenant.

Also think about the number of different residents who will subject to the restriction. If you impose this restriction on only one piece of land, who will be empowered to sue for its enforcement? However, if you have two or more lots, up to and including an entire subdivision, then you place the burden of enforcement on a homeowners association, if there will be one. If there's no association, then the burden would fall to any individual who feels aggrieved if transfers to someone other than a veteran occurs.

That is enough background information for us to give. Now you need to make an appointment with a local attorney to discuss possible language that will address your intent, and also to see if there are other methods available for accomplishing your goals in your particular state.

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