Removal of deeded basketball court

by Hans
(Northeast MD)

Visitor Question: I live in a townhouse development in which a basketball court was originally in the property deed. The court had been a huge nuisance and danger. The nets were taken down and it has been inactive now for years.

The town however is causing an issue and saying nets need to go back up because of the deed. The property management and the home owners association do not want them back up due to issues of vandalism. Trash, noise traffic coming in from out of the neighborhood to the court, fighting, and more.

How can we go about changing the deed to remove or modify the court for other use?

Editors Reply: Wow, you have a strong enforcement department in your town. Many towns are clueless as to what a deed even says, and most would not pursue enforcement in an instance such as this. We're not saying they are wrong on principle though.

You will need to consult an attorney licensed in your state. If the original attorney who drew up the master deed is still in practice in your area, that would be an excellent choice. Many homeowners associations will choose a resident attorney in the hope of getting free service; that also is a good option.

The main task for the attorney is to figure out what your particular development's deed says about modifications, if the possibility of changes is addressed at all. If you, the homeowner, have a copy of your deed restrictions, you may be able to find the relevant provision and be helpful to the attorney.

Then of course the attorney will need to be mindful of state law that may be relevant. The bottom line is that there will be a way to change this designation
of a geographic area for a particular use; it just may be very tedious to follow the prescribed procedure. Sometimes it is as revolting as having to obtain the agreement of every single property owner. Other times it is pretty easy for a homeowners association to either get the deed changed, or to convene a meeting of property owners where a majority vote can create the change.

But even beyond the deed restriction, you also have the potential for an issue with your town. The town may have approved your development, provided it complies with every detail of the deed. In other words a site plan of some sort may be incorporated by reference into the ordinance or law approving the development. We somewhat think that is the case, based on the fact that the town is making an issue out of a missing basketball net.

So while you are consulting an attorney about changes, or even before that, if you find you will have to pay an attorney, ask the town what would be required to change this situation from their point of view.

We wish we could give you a definite answer, but the particular facts of the case will govern here. Both deed restrictions and approved plats or site plans are likely at issue.

However, we do understand that if the basketball court would rapidly become a nuisance, it will be worth the hassle of changing that deed requirement permanently. There will be a way to do that, but we did not promise it would be easy. At least if your development can remain united and not fall into conflict, that will be helpful.

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