Homeowner Seeks To Nullify An Easement

Reader Question: I have a question regarding easements. I own a home built in the late 1920s. The original owner created an easement agreement with one neighbor next door. Nearly eighty years later I tried to dissolve the easement and told I could not, that my current neighbors would need to agree to terminate it as well. There is no documentation between myself or my neighbors stating we each agree to the easement. However, an agreement made by others decades prior holds us together. Legal options are costly, and my neighbor is unwilling to give this up. I am trying to find info on how this agreement made by others is passed down and enforced and to see if there are options. I do not get along with my neighbors, so civil discussions are not an option. I am concerned if they were to sell their house, this “agreement” would carry to the new owners, and I would be stuck honoring this. Any advice is appreciated.

Monty’s Answer: Easements come in different varieties. It is very common for easements to “run with the land.” Property owners record easements at the county level in the Register of Deeds, or Land Records office. If your easement runs with the land, without all the affected landowners in agreement, it may be unlikely to be overturned.

The definition of an easement

In the context you are describing it: “ Law. a right held by one property owner to make use of the land of another for a limited purpose, as a right of passage.”

While it is true that you and your neighbor did not personally agree to the easement, the agreement made by former owners was in writing and recorded. By law, it “runs with the land.” When you purchased your home, the title opinion listed the easement as a restriction on the title. The option you had at that time was to walk away from the purchase, or attempt to negotiate the removal of the easement.   

An uphill battle?

Removing a driveway easement that would cut off or limit ingress and egress to a neighbors property may be very difficult. Easements can occasionally be removed when the party seeking the removal compensates the other parties. Otherwise, an attorney who has read the easement and understands the reason you want it removed will be your best avenue to pursue advice.