In my small town we have a family of philanthropists that gives away parcels of land in town to promote homebuilding in the area. There has always been a verbal agreement that if the land wasn’t used for a home that it was to be returned. Recently, one of the recipients decided not to build a home on her parcel. Instead, in violation of the agreement, she has decided to put the land up for sale. She also erected a billboard on the land to promote her sale of cemetery monuments. She has even placed some sample monuments on the property. Is there any legal way to compel her to honor this verbal contract and either return the land or use it for what the original owners intended?
2 Answers from Attorneys
Re: Verbal Contract
You need to sue. I'm surprised anyone is giving away land on an oral promise, because generally, when it comes to conveying/limiting interests in land, they must be in writing. However, all oral contracts are just as enforceable as written contracts (though sometimes harder to prove), and therefore, you can still sue this lady to make her either pay for the value of the land or return it. Because the contract was not in writing, you may not be able to force her to return the land (I assume it was properly deeded over to her? Did the deed mention any requirement that the land be used for a home?), but what you can do is make her pay for it since she violated her end of the agreement. Any number of theories, from breach of contract, to fraud, or unjust enrichment could provide a remedy to this lady's ungrateful behavior. You should be able to recover attorney fees too. What town is this in.
Re: Verbal Contract
Not unless there is a city ordinance against it. Agreements relating to real estate must be in writing to be enforceable.
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