Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Q. We are having a problem with a neighbor who has an easement across our property.

He believes that we can’t use “his” road and that he owns it. He also is upset because he says we aren’t taking good care of the road.

I’m amazed at how often I get questions about road easements. They are not well understood. You should ask an attorney to review the easement itself to be sure that there are no unusual features to it, but here is an answer based on my experience and those easements I’ve dealt with.

The property is yours. You own it and pay taxes on it. An egress and ingress easement is just giving someone else permission to cross your land to get to their property, nothing more. Because it’s your property you can use the road for your own purposes. The maintenance of the road is totally the responsibility of the person benefiting from the easement unless you have some sort of maintenance agreement.

Another issue I’ve heard about from time to time is the question concerning whether the person using the easement can grant permission to another property owner to use it. Unless there is specific language to the contrary, most easements can’t be passed on to others. They apply only to that single property.

I would start with a letter to your neighbor outlining your rights and his. Include a copy of the easement, which you can find in your title policy. If you want to make this a pleasant relationship, then you might agree to help maintain the road, especially if you are using it. That would be a fair way to handle it.

Again, check with an attorney to be sure that it’s a standard easement with no unusual clauses.