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Garrett v. Sympson

Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth

June 8, 2017

WILLIAM T. GARRETT AND LANETTA M. GARRETT APPELLANTS
v.
GEORGIA KAYE SYMPSON AND CLIFFORD A. HALL, SR. APPELLEES

         FROM THE 355TH DISTRICT COURT OF HOOD COUNTY TRIAL COURT NO. C2016184

          PANEL: WALKER, KERR, and PITTMAN, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          SUE WALKER JUSTICE.

         I. Introduction

         This is an interlocutory appeal from a temporary injunction order prohibiting Appellants William T. Garrett and Lanetta M. Garrett from using their lake house for "commercial/business purposes, " from renting or leasing their lake house to multiple individuals, and from renting their lake house to any person for "temporary or transient purposes." The sole issue we address is whether short-term vacation rentals violate restrictive covenants that require the lots to be used for "single family residence purposes" and prohibit commercial use of the lots. Because the restrictive covenants at issue are ambiguous and because we are required to resolve any ambiguity against Appellees Georgia Kaye Sympson and Clifford A. Hall Sr. and in favor of the Garretts' free and unrestricted use of their property, we will reverse the trial court's order granting the temporary injunction and we will order the temporary injunction dissolved.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         In December 2015, the Garretts purchased the lake house located at 405 Peninsula Court in the Scenic View Estates in Granbury, Texas ("the Property"). The Property is governed by deed restrictions ("the Restrictions"), which require the Property to be used for "single family residence purposes" and prohibit the Property from being used for commercial purposes. The Restrictions, however, provide that for-rent "signs not exceeding five (5) square feet in size" may be posted.

         In February 2016, the Garretts began advertising and renting the Property through the website VRBO. As of November 4, 2016, [2] the Garretts had rented the Property for approximately 100 nights to various groups of individuals.[3] The Garretts' practice is to rent the entire house to one individual who is at least twenty-five years old, and that individual is allowed to bring other individuals to stay overnight at the Property. The Garretts also require the individual who rents the Property to explain his or her planned use of the Property; the Garretts turned down rental requests that they "just didn't feel like fit the [P]roperty as well as the neighborhood." The Garretts expected to earn $50, 000 in rental income from the Property during the first twelve months it was listed on VRBO and up to $100, 000 in rental income from the Property during the following twelve-month period.[4]

         Approximately seven months after the Garretts started renting the Property on VRBO, Appellees, who own nearby property, filed suit for a declaratory judgment and sought a temporary and permanent injunction based on the following Restrictions:

         SECTION II. USE OF LAND:

(a). No lot or plot shall ever be used for other than single family residence purposes. No dwelling house located there-on shall ever be used for any other than single family residence purposes, no[r] shall any outbuilding or structure located thereon be used in any manner other than incidental to such family residence purposes. The erection and/or maintenance and/or use of any lot or plot for other purposes including but not limited to commercial or professional purposes is hereby expressly prohibited.
. . . .

         SECTION VIII. MISCELLANEOUS:

. . . .

(d) No noxious or offensive trade or activity shall be carried on upon any lot or plot, nor shall anything be done or placed thereon, which may be or become an annoyance or nuisance to the neighborhood.

Appellees challenged the short-term rentals of the Property because they "believe personally that one year should be the minimum period of ...


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