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Caroline v Roper


TR allowed building of community hall on his land; he retained title, allowed use for community purposes only.

When TR died, wife inherited title.

R transferred land to community trustees – land “shall revert back to the late Thomas Roper Estate if used for other than a community centre...”.

The hall burnt down, not rebuilt, now town wants to sell land for commercial purposes.


Did the deed revert to the grantor once it was no longer being used as a community centre?

Is it a fee simple subject to a condition subsequent (defeasible) OR was it a determinable fee simple subject to a right of reverter

But if interest was determinable, no perpetuities problem.

So which is it?
(Town wants defeasible, R wants determinable).


Fee simple subject to a condition subsequent = Defeasible Interest

Determinable fee simple subject to a right of reverter = Determinable Interest


Words used indicate a fee simple + condition subsequent (a future event that may or may not occur = defeasible!). No condition that the fee simple is good only so long as a certain use is made of it. So offends perpetuity rule.

“this acre…shall revert…if used for other than a community centre”
words use future tense
future action depends on something occurring which may or may not occur in the indefinite future

fee simple subject to a condition subsequent



Document is void and unenforceable!


The defeasible right of re-entry is contingent, because right can’t be exercised until an event (condition precedent) occurs – ie, the land must no longer be needed as a community centre.

The determinable possibility of reverter is vested. The determining event giving rise to POR is seen as marking the full duration of the estate, and isn’t a supervening event that cuts short the interest granted.

Court actually held that city was a trustee (looked to intent of testator, not just words). Once land no longer used for hall, it should be reverting back to Roper’s Estate. Document also explicitly uses “revert.” Determinable?

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