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Massachusetts Homeowners Succeed in Action Against Developer to Oppose Access Road Through Their Property

The actions of developers and other businesses may have lasting effects on the properties of residential homeowners.  When the change is unwanted or unwarranted, homeowners may be able to take legal steps to protect their property rights.  In a September 7, 2018 Massachusetts real estate case, the homeowners succeeded in opposing a property developer’s plan to use a right of way easement on their property.

The developer in the case had applied to the local zoning authority for approval of a proposed plan to build an affordable housing complex with thirty-two dwelling units.  Seeking to demonstrate that there was sufficient access to the proposed development, the developer added to its proposed plan an additional access road traveling from the public road to the development.  The additional access road proposed by the developer, however, required use of a right of way through property owned by the plaintiffs.  The plaintiffs filed an action in the Massachusetts Land Court to protect their rights in the right of way, arguing that the developer had no rights to cross their land to access the proposed development from the public road.

The developer first argued that it had a granted easement over the right of way because it was shown on the recorded plan of the plaintiff’s subdivision.  The court disagreed, holding that the mere depiction of a way on an approved subdivision, without more, does not operate as a grant of an easement.

The developer then argued that the facts of the case gave rise to an easement by estoppel.  In Massachusetts, an easement by estoppel generally may be created only where the dispute is between the grantee and the grantor, or their successors in interest.  The developer, however, sought to establish an easement by estoppel based on a conveyance outside their chain of title.  The court declined to extend the rule by allowing an easement by estoppel for parties other than the original grantor and grantee and their successors in interest, and rejected the developer’s argument.

The court went on to rule that the developer did not establish that it had an implied easement either.  In Massachusetts, implied easements are found through the presumed intent of the parties, gathered from the language of the documents and the circumstances attending the execution, and the knowledge of the parties.  Because the developer offered no facts to support its claim of an implied easement, the court dismissed the claim.  The land court accordingly entered a declaratory judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, finding that the developer had no rights over the right of way.

If you are seeking trustworthy legal advice regarding your residential property, the Massachusetts real estate lawyers at Pulgini & Norton can assist you.  We have experience guiding homeowners and buyers through property sales transactions, mortgage re-financing, building permit applications, title actions, and other residential real estate issues.  Call our office at (781) 843-2200 or use our website contact form to request a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Landowners Successfully Challenge Permit Issued for Housing Development Next to Their Property, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published September 19, 2016

Massachusetts Homeowner Brings Action Against Neighbor to Enforce Zoning Law, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published August 21, 2017

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