Restraint on alienation

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Restraint on alienation is a restriction in a deed or will conveying real property on future conveyance of that real property. Restraints on alienation may be indefinite or extend for a fixed amount of time. However, restraints on alienation are disfavored by courts—the rationale being that a present owner of the real property should not be allowed to tie the hands of future generations—and will generally only be upheld if the restraint is not unreasonable. For example, in the famous 1948 U.S. Supreme Court Case, Shelby v. Kramer, the Court struck down the 

enforcement of a provision in a conveyance which provided that “only Caucasians may hold title” because it violated the Equal Protection Clause. Also, under the common law rule against perpetuities, the maximum period of time for limiting any transfer of real property title generally transfers to lives in being, plus 21 years. As another example, the Supreme Court of Connecticut in Gangemi v. Zoning Board of Appeals found that a condition of zoning variance that prohibited rental of homeowners’ property in their beach district was an unreasonable restraint on alienation of homeowners’ real property and invalidated it. 

[Last updated in April of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team