Massachusetts Court Rules Plaintiffs Have Easement Over Neighbors’ Property to Access Beach

In Massachusetts, beach access can be a significant feature of a residential real estate property.  In a March 5, 2018 case, the primary issue before the Appeals Court of Massachusetts concerned the ownership of, and access to, a beach situated near the parties’ homes.  The Land Court had ruled that the plaintiffs held easement rights to access and use the beach by a 1929 deed and by implication.  The defendants appealed the Land Court decision to the higher court.

An appurtenant easement allows for the use of a servient parcel of land in order to benefit a dominant parcel of land and the possessors of that land.  Appurtenant easements attach to and run with the land and consequently benefit subsequent possessors of that property as well.  If the appurtenant easement is expressly granted by deed, the deed must only reasonably identify the servient land, the dominant land, and the easement itself.

In the case, the 1929 deed expressly granted easement rights to the owner and subsequent owners.  It identified the easement as granting recreational use of the beach and shore located on the opposite end of the servient estate, currently owned by the defendants.  The defendants argued, however, that the plaintiffs were outside the record title chain and were not grantees of the easement.  The appeals court stated that appurtenant easements are not required to be recorded in the grantees’ title, and the successors of the dominant estate need not be specifically identified at the time of conveyance.  Instead, it is only required that the dominant and servient estates be reasonably ascertainable.  Since the plaintiffs possessed property comprising the dominant estate at the time of the May 1929 deed, therefore, they held easement rights to use the beach.

The court went on to find that, since it would be contrary to the grantor’s intention to provide for use of the beach while denying any access to get to the beach, the conveyance necessarily included access rights through an implied easement across the defendants’ properties.  The court explained that, when an easement is created, every right necessary for its enjoyment is included by implication.

Moreover, the appeals court also stated that the use of a way for access from the dominant parcel across the servient parcel, before the parcels were separated, would support the creation of an easement by implication.  Since the grantor had used the way for access to the beach prior to the conveyance of the servient estate to the defendants’ predecessors, the court found that the subsequent conveyance to the plaintiffs’ predecessors would by implication include those preexisting rights.  Accordingly, the appeals court affirmed the decision, ruling the plaintiffs held implied easement rights to access the beach across the defendants’ property.

At Pulgini & Norton, our Massachusetts real estate attorneys advise individuals in all aspects of residential property law.  We can provide legal representation in home purchases and sales, zoning and permit applications, mortgages, and more.  Contact Pulgini & Norton by phone at (781) 843-2200 or through our website to schedule a consultation with an experienced property lawyer.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Land Court Denies Non-Owner’s Claim of Prescriptive Rights in Beach Property, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published May 1, 2017

Massachusetts Landowner Seeks Injunction Prohibiting Neighbor’s Use of Beach Path, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published July 24, 2017

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