Massachusetts Property Owner Brings Action Against Subdivision Developer and Neighbors Over Easement Rights

It may seem unusual that, despite owning a parcel of property, some non-owners may have a limited right to use a portion of it.  One of the legal devices to convey such use is called an easement.  In a December 20, 2017 case, a plaintiff filed an action with the Massachusetts Land Court to remove alleged clouds on the title to his property.  In two of the counts in his complaint, the plaintiff sought to establish that the defendants did not have the right or benefit of an easement over his land.  The parties’ lots were part of a subdivision they purchased from the developer.

The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment on the issues before the Land Court.  The plaintiff argued that the defendants had no right to use areas of his land that were designated as “cart paths” in the recorded deeds and subdivision plans.  The plaintiff also contended that the developer had no right to a private driveway easement that was referenced in the deeds as crossing his land.

The court first looked at the language of the deeds and other recorded documents to determine whether the defendants had rights over the cart paths on the plaintiff’s land.  While noting that the documents did depict the cart paths, the court explained that none of the deeds mentioned any rights that were granted or reserved over any of them. The court also pointed out that there were no facts to suggest that easements over the cart paths arose by implication, common scheme, or necessity.  Accordingly, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiff with respect to the cart paths, finding that the defendants did not have any right to use the cart paths on his land.

With respect to the driveway easements, the court referenced two deeds that provided an express reservation of an easement to the developer.  While acknowledging the easement, the plaintiff argued that the developer’s easement rights were extinguished when the developer conveyed one of the lots to a realty trust without reserving its easement rights over the plaintiff’s lot.  The developer responded that its express easement rights were not extinguished because it retained implied rights over the lot that it had conveyed.

In Massachusetts, a party asserting an implied easement has the burden to show that during the common ownership of two parcels, an obvious use of one part was made for the benefit of another part, it was actually being used in such a manner, and it is reasonably necessary for the enjoyment of the other part of the parcel.  Ultimately, the court concluded that there was a question of fact as to the issue of the developer’s implied easement, and it declined to grant summary judgment in favor of that party.

The Massachusetts real estate attorneys at Pulgini & Norton can further the objectives of individuals in a variety of property transactions.  We can assist in resolving land disputes, facilitating residential property purchases, determining title ownership and easement rights, and handling many other residential real estate matters.  To discuss your needs with a knowledgeable property lawyer, contact Pulgini & Norton by phone at (781) 843-2200 or online.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Plaintiff Seeks to Enforce Greater Easement Rights Against Town in Property Action, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published September 11, 2017

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

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