It is not unusual for legal disagreements to arise out of an easement or the permissible use of one’s property by non-owners. Recently, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts issued a January 30, 2017 decision in which it determined the rights of neighboring landowners over three disputed right of ways. The plaintiff initially brought the action against his neighbors in Land Court, seeking to restrain them from maintaining a fence on any portion of his property. The Land Court found that the neighbors did have rights to parts of the right of ways, but other parts had been partially extinguished by adverse possession. Both parties appealed that decision to the higher court for review.
The three right of ways at issue abutted or were in the vicinity of the parties’ properties, leading to a public road. After the defendants erected a fence, the plaintiff filed his action, claiming that the defendants’ fence blocked his right of ways, that he had ownership of the first and third right of way by adverse possession, and that he had acquired a prescriptive easement to turn around and park on certain sections of the defendants’ property.
The parties’ properties were originally part of a larger tract of land, which was divided into six lots in 1911. The 1911 plan revealed that the parties’ current lots would be landlocked without the first and third right of ways. In 1941, one of the lots was divided into northern and southern sections, owned by the defendants and the plaintiff, respectively. The 1941 deed granted an express access easement for the defendants’ lot to use the second right of way located on the plaintiff’s lot.
After reviewing the language of the deeds and the evidence of record, the appeals court found that the easements over the first and third right of ways remained appurtenant to both the plaintiff’s and the defendants’ lots. The court concluded that, although the plaintiff had access by deed and utility easements over the first and third right of ways located on the defendants’ property, the defendants also had the same easements deeded for the benefit of their property.
Despite the deeded easements, the court nevertheless held that the plaintiff had extinguished the defendants’ rights over a portion of the first and third right of ways through adverse possession, noting that the areas had been incorporated into the front yard of the plaintiff’s property, and the topography made that part of the right of ways impassable. The court went on to add that the defendants did retain their easements in the portions of the right of ways that weren’t gained through adverse possession. With respect to the second right of way (located entirely on the plaintiff’s property), the court explained that any fencing recently installed by the defendants that blocks the right of way must be removed.
The real estate attorneys at Pulgini & Norton have the resources and experience needed to assist Massachusetts residents in their residential property transactions and legal disputes. We can handle purchase and sale agreements, title and deed matters, building permit applications, zoning issues, and more. To discuss your concerns with one of our lawyers, contact Pulgini & Norton at (781) 843-2200 or online and schedule a free consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Massachusetts Homeowners Prevail in Easement Action Filed by Real Estate Developer, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published January 16, 2017
Massachusetts Appeals Court Sides with Property Owner in Case Against Town Over Easement Rights, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published August 22, 2016