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Church Loses Property after Violating Deed Restriction

Why a New York court said a diocese’s building and land must be returned to the previous owner.

New York

Key point 7-14. Some deeds to church property contain a “reversion” clause stating that title will revert back to the previous owner in the event that a specified condition occurs. The courts will enforce such provisions, so long as they can do so without interpreting church doctrine.

A New York court enforced a provision in a deed of property to a Catholic diocese that called for the return of the property to the prior owner in the event it ceased to be used for religious purposes.


In 1896, the president of a business corporation (the grantor) executed a deed by which the grantor transferred property in New York to a Catholic diocese.

The deed stated that the property was to be used “for [c]hurch purposes only . . . and in case the said premises shall be devoted to any other use than for [c]hurch purposes . . . this conveyance shall be void and the [grantor] shall ...

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  • June 17, 2021

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