Appeals Court Rules: What Creates a Legally Enforceable Easement under Massachusetts Law?

Easements are one reason why it’s a good idea to have an experienced Massachusetts real estate lawyer on your side throughout the entirety of your home purchasing process. If there are any encumbrances on the property you are intending to buy, you’ll want to know sooner rather than later.

In Perillo v. Knight, a case before the Appeals Court of Massachusetts, at issue was the existence of a valid legal easement. Although it was not mentioned in the facts of the case as discussed, the probable circumstances under which this arose was a homeowner wishing to somehow alter their property and then perhaps beginning the process, only to find that there was an encumbrance on the property. Easements run with the land, meaning that even after a home is sold, they must legally be honored by the subsequent landowner, and they are subject to enforcement in court.

Since this case was heard on appeal, the lower court judge had determined the presence of a valid  50-foot wide implied roadway easement was created in 1989 as a result of a negotiation between the defendant’s husband, James Knight, and the former owner of the land in question. The easement was then noted on a subdivision plan, which was additionally referred to in the deeds of the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs attempted to argue that no easement was achieved because there was no written grant of easement, and furthermore that the subdivision plan in and of itself was insufficient to legally establish an easement.

The appeals court found that the judge’s finding that the original parties intended to create the 50-foot wide roadway easement was amply supported by the evidence, and furthermore that his conclusion that a valid easement was created, of which the plaintiffs had constructive notice, was consistent with the applicable case law.

Due to the easement being demarcated on the subdivision plan, and then being referred to in the deeds, the court ruled that it thus became an easement because “a plan referred to in a deed becomes a part of the contract so far as may be necessary to aid in the identification of the lots and to determine the rights intended to be conveyed.”

This case was distinguished from a similar decision because here there was constructive notice, the action was negotiated by the original homeowner, and the easement was negotiated through the substitution of a separate area of land from the original subdivision plan.

The plaintiffs’ arguments that the defendant abandoned the easement because the only way it was being used was by some trees and a mailbox, and not through the erecting of a permanent structure, was rejected by the trial court judge. The Appeals Court did not find that ruling erroneous, and thus it was affirmed.

The experienced Massachusetts real estate attorneys at Pulgini & Norton can help you with all of your real estate legal needs. If you are having an issue regarding an easement, or have any other question regarding buying, selling, or financing a home, give us a call today at 781-843-2200 or contact our office online, and we can help legally clear the way for you.

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