Massachusetts Homeowners Battle Subdivision Developer Over Right of Way on Their Property

The purchase and sale agreement between a buyer and seller of property contains important details about the transaction.  A Massachusetts real estate attorney can explain the terms of the purchase and sale agreement so that a home buyer understands the consequences of signing the contract.  In an August 3, 2018 case before the Massachusetts Land Court, the plaintiffs filed an action against the subdivision developer that sold them their home.  The dispute concerned the ownership and use of a lane to access other houses within the subdivision.The plaintiffs in the case purchased their house from the defendant in 2002.  The defendant retained ownership of several acres of land abutting the plaintiffs’ property, intending to develop the parcel as a multi-house subdivision.  The defendant therefore insisted upon a rider to the parties’ purchase and sale agreement, providing that the plaintiffs agreed not to interfere with the planned subdivision and acknowledged that the defendant may grant an easement on the property to serve that subdivision.

In 2017, the defendant finally received approval to build 20 homes on the parcel abutting the plaintiffs’ property.  The permit also allowed the defendant to build a lane providing access to a street from the subdivision.  The plaintiffs filed a quiet title action against the defendant, asserting that the easement was intended to serve a maximum of four homes and that the easement would be overburdened by a lane serving the proposed subdivision.

A general right of way easement obtained by grant, as here, may be used for purposes that are reasonably necessary to enjoy the premises, i.e., the subdivision.  However, the right of way must be consistent with what the parties reasonably anticipated at the time they established it.  In making that determination, the court will assume that the parties anticipated uses that might reasonably be required by the normal development of the subdivision.

The Land Court concluded that the parties could have anticipated the use of the lane for a development such as the proposed 20-house subdivision.  The court noted that at the time of the agreement, the eight-acre parcel was vacant and of a size that would lend itself to development, and the parties’ agreement acknowledged the development of a subdivision.  Furthermore, the lane was the only means by which the vacant parcel could reach a public road.  The court therefore found that the easement was not overburdened.  In so finding, the court entered a judgment allowing for the use of the lane to access the future subdivision from the public road.

If you have an issue regarding residential property, the Massachusetts real estate attorneys at Pulgini & Norton can help.  We have experience in areas such as land use and zoning, financing, home sale and purchase agreements, permits, and more.  Request a free consultation with a skilled property lawyer by calling our office at (781) 843-2200 or submitting the online form on our website.

More Blog Posts:

Deed Provision Compels Massachusetts Landowners to Re-Convey Subdivision Lot to Developer, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published February 1, 2017

Massachusetts Homeowners Seek Declaration That Road Bordering Their Property Is Public Way, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published March 27, 2018


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