If someone has interfered with your easement or property rights, you may have legal recourse. In a September 19, 2019 Massachusetts real estate case, the plaintiffs filed an action against their neighbors in Land Court claiming that their property had the benefit of an easement over their neighbors’ property. Specifically, the plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment from the court that they had the right to use an existing driveway on the defendants’ property to access their own property, and a restraining order enjoining the defendants from blocking the plaintiff’s access to their property.
The plaintiffs in the case asserted that their right to use the defendant’s driveway was based on a recorded easement, a prescriptive easement, and/or an easement by necessity. With regard to the plaintiffs’ claim to a recorded easement, the court held that the deed presented in support of their argument was ineffective to create an express easement. The court explained that, although both parties’ properties were held under common ownership originally, at the time the grantor purported to convey the right of way at issue, he did not own the defendant’s property. As one cannot convey a property right that one does not own, the court ruled that no express easement was created by deed.
The court next addressed the plaintiffs’ claimed easement by necessity. In Massachusetts, an easement by necessity requires the following elements: (1) unity of title; (2) severance of that unity by a conveyance; and (3) necessity arising from the severance, most often when a lot becomes landlocked. The court noted that the deed severing the parties’ properties granted an express easement that provided access to the plaintiff’s property, although one was never constructed. Nevertheless, the court held that the plaintiffs did not present any additional evidence that access over the defendants’ driveway was reasonably necessary.