The average American house is larger than ever, while the yard is continuing to grow smaller, according to the Atlantic. This has spurred innumerable arguments and disputes between close-quartered neighbors, with easements being of top concern. An easement is a strip of land, usually in the form of a dirt road or driveway, that bisects one person’s property for another person’s use. For example, if you are planning to purchase property that is accessed by a driveway that is on your potential future neighbor’s land, that driveway is an easement. Easements are not owned by the person who uses it to access their home; that land is technically owned by the person who owns the property that the easement bisects.
Who Owns the Easement?
An easement is a nonpossessory interest in the neighbor’s property. This is to say that the easement is owned by Party A, whose land the easement is on, and Party B has legal access to the land. Party A can exclude everyone from using the easement except for Party B, while Party B can only exclude someone from the easement if that person’s presence conflict’s with Party B’s ability to access the easement. Party A’s land is called the servient estate, while Party B’s land is called the dominant estate because Party B benefits from the easement, while Party A does not necessarily benefit.
When Can an Easement be Terminated?
An easement can only be terminated when one of the following occurs:
- The easement has been abandoned;
- Intent to abandon through the easement user’s continued disuse of the easement;
- One party purchases the other person’s property; or
- The holder of the easement rights gives up their rights in writing;
Making Easement Improvements and Repairs
The person who holds the right to the easement (Party B in the earlier example) has the right and duty to make repairs and maintain the easement so long as these repairs do not interfere with the rights of the landowner (Party A). Serious disputes can arise when one party makes changes to an easement that the other disapproves of, and vice versa–when the owner of the land prohibits Party B from making changes or repairs. Other issues may arise when a new owner of property B refuses to maintain the easement, according to the Washington Post.
Call a San Francisco Real Estate Attorney
For help creating easements, solving easement and right of way disputes, and terminating easements, call or contact the San Francisco real estate attorneys of Lvovich & Szucsko, P.C. today. We are here to answer your questions and help resolve inconvenient disputes with your neighbors.