When does 1 legal agreement supersede a precious agreement?

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When does 1 legal agreement supersede a precious agreement?

We own property and made an agreement with a neighbor to allow them to lay a water line across our property as long as they owned theirs. In the contract we specified that they would maintain the water line and that the agreement is only existent between individuals listed on the agreement. Also, it states that if they sold or released ownership of their property, the agreement is and shall remain non-transferable. Previous owners (neither being the current owners) of both properties had an agreement that we were not made aware of until the current property owners decided to sell. Is our agreement legal since all parties from both families signed and dated the agreement? Does this supersede previous agreement by previous owners.

Asked on July 19, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Mississippi

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

1) An agreement or contract is between parties. Individuals who were not party to an agreement are not bound by it.

2) It is possible for people to take over a previous agreement; however, this requires an affirmative act to assume the obligations under the prior agreement. By definition, without notice or knowlege of an agreement, parties could not be charged with having assumed a prior agrement, so parties generally are not responsible for or obligated under agreements made by other parties (including previous owners) unless they knew of the agreement and further agreed to be bound by its terms.

3) Also, the parties to a contact may always replace, supercede, modify, etc. it by their mutual consent.

So if the agreement between the prior owners was simple a contract or agreement between those parties, it should bind or affect subsequenct owners who did not assume its obligations.

4) HOWEVER, if instead of the prior "agreement" being an agreement between two individual parties (like the one you describe creating), it was actually a grant of an easement on the land, that *would* affect subsequent owners, since an easement modifies the rights which can be transferred or conveyed. However, to be in effect, an easement should have been properly recorded, and it's also something that a title search should have uncovered. If you have any questions about whether there is an actual easement, a real estate attorney can help you determine this.

Note also that if one party sold property saying that there was an agreement governing its use or the rights in or on a neighbor's property and that agreement is not, per 1) - 3) enforceable, the people who bought the property in the expectation that they had certain rights may have a legal action against the sellers, for either breach of contract or fraud (depending on circumstances).


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