Massachusetts Land Court Finds No Right of Way Easement Over Neighboring Land

Some parcels of land are subject to an easement, which allows people other than the owner to use the owner’s property for a particular purpose. If you believe you have an easement over land in Massachusetts, you can petition the land court for a declaratory judgment outlining your rights. In an August 9, 2017 Massachusetts property case, the plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment in land court, arguing that they were the beneficiaries of two right of way easements across the neighboring landowner’s property.

In the case, the plaintiffs claimed they had the benefit of existing rights of way of record. The plaintiffs argued that the original deed to the defendant’s land conveying two parcels of land contained two easements, which they alleged actually existed as one continuous right of way. Since the plaintiffs owned the lands at both ends of the alleged continuous right of way, they contended that they were entitled to use and improve the right of way to access their land.

The land court first looked at the original deeds conveying the parties’ respective lots to determine whether an easement had been reserved. In Massachusetts, when an easement has been reserved in the grant of a parcel of land, the easement must be construed with reference to the deed and the circumstances when it was made. A reservation in a deed can only vest the grantor with a new right or interest. If the deed did attempt to vest a new right in a stranger to the deed, it would be void.

Reviewing the original deed to the defendant’s land, the court concluded that, although there was a reference to two right of ways, nothing in the language indicated that a right of way easement was reserved for the benefit of any parcels of land owned by the grantor. Nor did any evidence of record suggest that the grantor retained ownership of any of the land now owned by the plaintiffs. This finding was significant because unless the grantor retained ownership of the land benefited by the easement, any reservation in the deed could not legally vest a right of way in land that was conveyed. Accordingly, the court held that, while the plaintiffs may be correct that the original deeds referenced an existing right of way, there is no evidence that it burdens the defendant’s lot or benefits any of the land currently owned by the plaintiffs.

The Massachusetts real estate attorneys at Pulgini & Norton provide legal advice in all areas of residential property law.  We can represent individuals in matters concerning zoning and land use, building permits, title actions, mortgage refinancing, purchase and sale agreements, and more.  To schedule an appointment with one of our experienced property lawyers, contact Pulgini & Norton by phone at (781) 843-2200 or submit our contact form on the website.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Plaintiffs in Easement Case Against Gas Pipeline Facility, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published July 5, 2016

Property Owner and Massachusetts Town Clash Over Easement Rights in Real Estate Case, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published October 16, 2017

Contact Information