A homeowner may file an action to quiet title in order to claim their ownership rights of the property in question. In a September 4, 2019 Massachusetts property case, the plaintiffs brought an action in Land Court claiming ownership of a way that lined one side of their property. The plaintiffs also sought a judgment that the defendant, a neighboring property owner, had no rights in or over the way.
The plaintiffs’ property consisted of nine row houses, which each row house having a separate entrance onto the way at issue. When the plaintiffs acquired their property in 1985, there was a fence that separated the way from the defendants’ abutting property. The fence was installed by the previous owner of the defendant’s property. It was built ten feet high, and did not have a gate or any other opening to allow passage between the defendant’s property and the way. In 2018, the plaintiffs replaced the fence after it was knocked down by a storm.
Pursuant to the Massachusetts derelict fee statute, a deed passing title to real estate that abuts a private or public way also conveys ownership to the centerline of the way if the grantor retains the property on the other side of the way, and if the deed does not expressly provide otherwise. The Land Court concluded that, pursuant to the Massachusetts derelict fee statute, the deed to the plaintiffs’ property conveyed ownership up to the centerline of the way. The issue, therefore, was whether the plaintiffs had ownership over the entire way through adverse possession.