Neighbor Asking for Easement

40 Replies

I've got a neighbor selling his single family house, and he uses my driveway (multifamily units) to go up and park his cars on his property since his original driveway off the Main Street he tore out and built a deck. I didn't realize there was no legal easement for him. He contacting me trying to rush to sign a doc granting him easement or right of way. Timing is interesting as we were just getting quotes for fixing and coating the asphalt driveway, and I thought it was originally a shared driveway, but it turns out I own it. I was hoping to split repair costs. Is there any legal things I need to worry about in this situation? Is the easement worth much? I know people have sold them as they are permanent and don't expire right? Do I need a lawyer? Will we both be responsible for care? If I grant easement, and someone gets hurt on the easement and sues, am I liable? If i grant the easement, and the place is sold, can new owners legally park on the shared driveway? I just want to think this throughout before rushing.

You need a lawyer.He made a huge mistake taking away his own driveway and not thinking about the future.If he has been driving on your property for several years,you may have trouble refusing him or asking for money from him.A lawyer can spell out your rights as to the next person who lives there.

Several options here... all will require an attorney to prepare whatever agreement is reached (easement, shared driveway agreement) other than this one: tell your neighbor to remove his deck. That's his cheapest option.

He's got no bargaining power as this was all self-inflicted.

Originally posted by @Brandon Battle :

You need a lawyer.He made a huge mistake taking away his own driveway and not thinking about the future.If he has been driving on your property for several years,you may have trouble refusing him or asking for money from him.A lawyer can spell out your rights as to the next person who lives there.

Neighbor's property is not land-locked. Neighbor has been using the driveway with permission... so there has been no easement created by prescription. I think the neighbor is the one who needs the lawyer.

Originally posted by @Tom Gimer :
Originally posted by @Brandon Battle:

You need a lawyer.He made a huge mistake taking away his own driveway and not thinking about the future.If he has been driving on your property for several years,you may have trouble refusing him or asking for money from him.A lawyer can spell out your rights as to the next person who lives there.

Neighbor's property is not land-locked. Neighbor has been using the driveway with permission... so there has been no easement created by prescription. I think the neighbor is the one who needs the lawyer.

 So this means I shouldn't be doing all this work to figure this out? I contacted the local county office, and a few attorneys today and most recommended getting something professionally written up to protect me from legal matters/injury/indemnity, damage to driveway, maintenance to driveway, and more. 

Originally posted by @Nick A. :
Originally posted by @Tom Gimer:
Originally posted by @Brandon Battle:

You need a lawyer.He made a huge mistake taking away his own driveway and not thinking about the future.If he has been driving on your property for several years,you may have trouble refusing him or asking for money from him.A lawyer can spell out your rights as to the next person who lives there.

Neighbor's property is not land-locked. Neighbor has been using the driveway with permission... so there has been no easement created by prescription. I think the neighbor is the one who needs the lawyer.

 So this means I shouldn't be doing all this work to figure this out? I contacted the local county office, and a few attorneys today and most recommended getting something professionally written up to protect me from legal matters/injury/indemnity, damage to driveway, maintenance to driveway, and more. 

If your neighbor wants an easement, he should be paying you for access (and I would argue also your expenses in dealing with this) as well as footing the bill for the preparation and recording of the agreement. It sound like he's convinced you this is your problem.

I agree that you'll want an attorney to review whatever is prepared to make sure it is fair to you and protects you from liability ... there are very standard terms in these shared driveway agreements ... but you didn't create this and getting his deal to the settlement table is not your issue. 

I would consider a license instead of an easement with a yearly fee and only for that owner The easement hurts your property and is not necessary for the neighbors

You're right Tom, for some reason I was thinking I needed to work on this. He mentioned that he has always been patient putting up with tenants at our property, but it's not my problem he bought a house next to a multifamily! 

I've let him know I'm no longer investing time into it. He found someone to draft up a form, and I plan on forwarding that to an attorney stating my concerns about how I want an indemnity and don't want to be responsible for injury/legal matters, and I want to be ensured with contributions for maintenance/taxes maybe? I like the idea of a license Steven; if that's possible, I'll mention it to the attorney. I want to be helpful, but at the same time, I'm not here for hound outs if that makes sense. For some reason this neighbor thinks I owe him, he's encroached on property lines, probably crossed them with me and another neighbor if we had a survey done as well... :/ Ugh.

Ugh is right... What I have not seen anyone mention is that you will be reducing the value of your property if you grant any rights to anyone else. No idea how much, but exclusive use is more valuable then shared / restricted use any day of the week.

I agree with @Tom Gimer that removing the deck is the best option but then that affects the value of his house.

As it's been said, yeah, this is really his own issue, especially since he removed his own driveway. And then he tries to "negotiate" by saying he's been patient dealing with tenants? Unrelated and not your problem (again).

He should be paying for every dime of this easement issue if that what happens. I think he should even pay the cost of having your own attorney review the document. Same for filing fees.

Otherwise, he needs to redesign his yard so that he can have his own driveway again.

Don't let his urgency or bulliness affect you.

My personal home has an easement to a shared driveway that leads to 4 houses total. One of the houses actually owns the entire driveway, as shown on their survey. We all are good neighbors and chip in on any repairs (none so far) and snow removal. I also got an easement a couple of years ago for one of my rowhomes where the roof technically overhangs the neighbor's roof by 6 inches. It was a fairly easy process that my title company (and their in-house attorney) handled.

@Nick A.

I think that there a lot of good points by the group. I deal with easements almost everyday and be cautious on how things are worded if you grant the easement.

Think on the back end of the deal some of the problems that could occur. Not to sound terrible but be selfish here.

Think about resale of your property. Will this effect your value?

Think about if your neighbor sells his property and the easement conveys to someone who is less considerable of your needs (I.e they start parking a car in your driveway or litter).

Who handles maintenance?

Are there any CAM (common area maintenance) charges?

Who handles snow removal?

What liabilities do you have in the event of an accident from someone using your driveway and affects one of your tenants.

All things to think about if you are going to grant an easement.

Hope this helps...

@Nick A.

Also, do you know why all of a sudden your neighbor has motivation to get an easement? Would be a red flag for me.

Originally posted by @Shaun Palmer :

Nick A.

I think that there a lot of good points by the group. I deal with easements almost everyday and be cautious on how things are worded if you grant the easement.

Think on the back end of the deal some of the problems that could occur. Not to sound terrible but be selfish here.

Think about resale of your property. Will this effect your value?

Think about if your neighbor sells his property and the easement conveys to someone who is less considerable of your needs (I.e they start parking a car in your driveway or litter).

Who handles maintenance?

Are there any CAM (common area maintenance) charges?

Who handles snow removal?

What liabilities do you have in the event of an accident from someone using your driveway and affects one of your tenants.

All things to think about if you are going to grant an easement.

Hope this helps...

 Yeah this is all that I was worried about, I am going to be "selfish" if I grant he easement. That's a great question I definitely don't want this to effect my property value as we're even in a middle of a cash out refi at the moment. He's having an attorney draw up some terms, and I was planning on having an attorney represent me, with all these concerns mentioned. I hope there's a way to cover me in all these areas: parking, litter, damage, maintenance, snow, injury/liability, value. I don't want to take any risk here, and if there's a bit of risk I will just not sign it. I do like the idea of a license. Maybe I can grant a yearly license fee for use and terms outlined that's renewed yearly or something of the sort?

His motivation to do this so quickly is he's in contract for the sale of his home, and the buyer is requesting an easement to purchase the home. Estimated close date is end of November. Yes red flag to me.

What's the timing involved here?  As in, how long ago did he block his own drive way and start using your property?  Did you explicitly give him permission?  Have you been aware of his use of your property all along?  Has this happened since you've owned the property?

The reason I'm asking about this is adverse possession.  If one person openly and hostilely (i.e., without permission) uses another persons property for some period of time then they can claim adverse possession.  This happened here some years back where a landowner (in Boulder, as I recall) started to build a house on a vacant lot and the neighbor, who had been using a path through their property made a successful adverse possession claim for the path.  The landowner was unable to build the house they wanted because of setbacks.  

Now, the time period is usually very long.  A big of googling says its 10 years in Oregon.  And it has to be hostile.  That is, without permission.  So, if this person has been using this land without your permission for over 10 years, they may have a valid adverse possession claim.

Assuming that's not the case, I'd be pretty tempted to block their access to your property.  As others have said, this is a self-inflicted wound.   Its not your problem to fix it. 

That's a great question. Honestly I didn't know that he didn't have an easement to begin with, he's just always been using our driveway since we purchased the property 2 years ago. He's owned his house for about 4-5 years. I've never explicitly said no or yes to him. I think he must've assumed he had an easement too. But maybe he was aware there was no easement and just trying to take advantage of the situation similarly to how he's conveniently crossed over property lines.

If he built that deck and started using your property within the last five years you should be OK.

This is exactly the sort of situation adverse possession is intended for.  One person thinks they have legal rights to a chunk of land.  The actual owner doesn't object.  After a while that understanding become legal title.  Now that you're aware of the improper use, you probably need to take steps to address it.

Had there been an easement, that would have shown up in the title documents (deed, title insurance) when you bought the property. Since it didn't show up, that would have been a good time to address it.  "Hey neighbor, I notice you're driving through my property.  Please stop."

He's the one who blocked his drive way.  Giving an easement gives away some value.  Now, in a similar situation (purchasing a rural property where neighbor had drilled a well on the land I was purchasing), I carved off a slice of land and gave it to them.  And I was aware of the situation from the start.  But in my case it was a tiny slice and the value to me was minimal, especially given the desire to be on friendly terms with the neighbor.  In your case you have a neighbor who's demanding you GIVE him something to make up for his mistake.  Not sure I'd be too quick to give away part of my property, even if its just an easement.

DONT DO THE EASEMENT. If ones not already in place this could be a major headache in the future. Also, if you wanted to sell in the future, it could hurt your value, IMO. I.E. Two houses, basically the same, one with easement, one without ...which one would you take?

If I decide not to sign the easement, and send a letter stating, please don't drive on my property any longer. And the neighbor decides to ignore that notice, what are the repercussions of that decision?

Adverse possession isn't in play... neighbor's use has not been exclusive. 

But let us know when this neighbor fences off the driveway as his own and tells you it's time for you to start using the back alley to get to your house! 

If?....WHEN...you decide to not sign the easement. If he continues to do so then it’s lawyer time which costs $$ unfortunately. Not sure how big of a guy you are but you could do it the old fashioned way..which may end with you having to get a lawyer as well.

He’s going to be angry because he made a dumb decision with his home (build a deck over his existing driveway). He’ll get over it.

Originally posted by @James Barnes :

If?....WHEN...you decide to not sign the easement. If he continues to do so then it’s lawyer time which costs $$ unfortunately. Not sure how big of a guy you are but you could do it the old fashioned way..which may end with you having to get a lawyer as well.

He’s going to be angry because he made a dumb decision with his home (build a deck over his existing driveway). He’ll get over it.

Neighbor is under contract to sell and needs this particular access. 

It could be sold at a premium.

Originally posted by @Tom Gimer:

Adverse possession isn't in play... neighbor's use has not been exclusive.

Good point, I'd forgotten about that aspect.

Can you put a fence along the property line? Are your tenants staying only on your property or do they go on his, too?

The guy should remove his deck and use his own driveway.  Earlier you said:

I agree with @Tom Gimer that removing the deck is the best option but then that affects the value of his house.

True.  But the deck blocks vehicular access to the rear of the property so it being there affects the value, too.  Hence why the buyer is asking for the easement.

All my tenants stay on my property, the never go off the driveway onto his lot. I could put up a fence, but he'd definitely be angry with me. He even put up a gate along his property line off our driveway just within the last couple weeks as well. 

Hmmm Good point Tom 🤔🤔. *Asks neighbor*...”What’s it worth to you”?

Could get a nice chunk but is it worth it if you have “that neighbor” that has a ridiculous amount of traffic? Up to you...

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