Must heir sign to change deed restriction

by Cassandra

Visitor Question: I was approached by a realtor who sold property beside my parents' home. There's a restriction saying no mobile home. I was asked to sign a paper to change it to a mobile home being allowed with a foundation. Well our father just passed in October. We do not feel comfortable signing it. My sister only has a say in his estate.

Editors' Reply: Cassandra, we are sorry for your loss. The short answer is that you do not have to sign anything you don't feel comfortable in signing. Don't let any real estate agent make you feel guilty about this.

Please understand that we are not attorneys; we are city planners. So for a final conclusive answer, you need to consult an Ohio attorney. But for general advice, we would say that probably all heirs would need to sign to have the restriction removed. When you say only your sister has a say in your father's estate, we assume you mean that she is the administrator or executor. But that is for purposes of dividing up his estate and making sure bills are paid.

When it comes to deed restrictions, we believe that all heirs would have to agree, unless Ohio has some unusual rules about a certain proportion of the heirs being able to change the deed restriction.

Your instincts are right in that you would not want to do this without talking it over with your sister and any other siblings you may have. If our general knowledge of U.S. practice holds true in Ohio, the covenant could not be removed without the consent of all of you anyway. When emotions are running high, there is no need for one family member to start taking actions without consulting the others.

Readers, you can take a lesson from this and understand that in general, deed restrictions are a rather poor way to govern what kinds of buildings, structures, or land uses are permitting on a particular piece of land.

In this case the person who imposed the deed restriction may have had only the best interests of the area at heart, thinking that mobile homes diminish the appearance and the value of the adjoining properties. Still, after some years have passed, changing the deed restriction becomes a major chore, even when ideas and circumstances have changed.

So Cassandra, no one can make you sign to release the deed restriction. Talk with your sister, and any other brothers and sisters, before you do anything, and even then, just follow what you think is the right thing to do.

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