The issue of Massachusetts real estate easement rights commonly arises in situations involving beach access and pathways to the shore. This issue was the source of the dispute in an August 16, 2019 case decided by the Massachusetts Land Court on summary judgment. The question for the court was whether the defendants had an easement in a way referred to as the “shoreway,” which abutted the plaintiffs’ registered property.
The parties’ properties were located along a bay in Massachusetts. The properties were once part of a larger tract assembled in 1950, which had been registered on a county registry district certificate and depicted on a Land Court plan. The lands comprising the larger tract, however, had been registered long before 1950 in various certificates. Many of these certificates mentioned the roads within the registered parcels, and provided that the streets and ways shown on the plan were subject to the rights of all persons lawfully entitled to use them.
When the larger tract was divided in 1950 and thereafter, the developer registered several subdivision plans that included inland lots and oceanfront lots. The plans also depicted “shoreways,” which extended a short distance from the private interior subdivision roads to the bay. Both the inland lots and the oceanfront lots referred to easements providing a right of way in common with others over the private ways and shoreways.