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Caroline v Roper

Facts:

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.

Issue(s):

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).

Ratio:

Fee simple subject to a condition subsequent = Defeasible Interest

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

Analysis:

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.

Application:
“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

defeasible

Holding:

Document is void and unenforceable!

Comments:

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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