Updated on November 28, 2023
An express easement is an easement that is created by agreement between the dominant and servient tenement.
Although the express easement often specifies the purpose of the easement, e.g. ingress and egress, it can often be silent as to what alterations you can make to the easement to fulfill that purpose. However, case law provides some answers.
Generally speaking, the owner of an easement, i.e. the dominant tenement, can improve the easement or construct improvements on the easement which are reasonably required to make the use of the easement safe and convenient. For example, if your neighbor granted you an easement for ingress and egress over a portion of their property that is a dirt road, you may have the right to grade or pave the road in connection with your use of the same. However, your right to alter the easement is limited – the easement owner is not permitted to increase the burden on, or unreasonably interfere with, the use of the servient tenement.
To gain a deeper understanding of how express easements work and the scope of improvements that can be made, let’s explore a few real-life case studies and examples:
In a suburban neighborhood, two adjacent residential properties had a shared driveway connecting their garages to the main road. The owners of both properties entered into an express easement agreement, granting each other the right to use the shared driveway. Over time, one property owner decided to enhance the driveway by repaving it and installing security lighting. This improvement not only benefited their own property but also increased the overall value and convenience for both property owners.
A commercial building located in a busy downtown area had limited parking space. To address this issue, the building owner negotiated an express easement with a neighboring property owner to utilize a portion of their parking lot. The express easement allowed the commercial building owner to improve the parking area by adding designated parking spaces, signage, and landscaping. This enhancement not only alleviated parking congestion but also enhanced the overall aesthetic appeal of the area.
In a rural community, a landowner granted an express easement to a local government entity for the purpose of creating a public hiking trail across their property. The landowner agreed to allow the construction of the trail and subsequent improvements, such as trail markers, benches, and picnic areas. This express easement not only provided recreational opportunities for the community but also promoted tourism and economic growth in the area.
A utility company needed to install a power line across several private properties to improve electricity distribution in a growing neighborhood. Through negotiated express easements, the utility company obtained the necessary rights to access the properties and construct the power line. The express easements allowed the utility company to make improvements such as installing poles, transformers, and other necessary infrastructure, ensuring reliable power supply for the community.
These case studies and examples demonstrate the practical application of express easements and the scope of improvements that can be made. It is important to note that the specific terms and conditions of express easements may vary depending on the parties involved and the intended use. When negotiating or entering into an express easement agreement, it is crucial to consult with legal professionals to ensure that the rights and obligations of all parties are clearly defined and protected.
Throughout legal history, several landmark court cases have shaped the understanding and interpretation of express easements and the right to improvement. These legal precedents provide valuable insights into the rights and obligations of parties involved in express easements. Let’s explore a few notable cases:
In this groundbreaking case, the court established the principle that the scope of improvement in an express easement is not limited to the original purpose for which the easement was granted. The court ruled in favor of the property owner, allowing them to make improvements to the easement area beyond what was explicitly stated in the original agreement. This case clarified that the right to improvement is not overly restrictive and can evolve with changing circumstances.
In Johnson v. Brown, the court examined the issue of whether the servient estate owner has the right to object to improvements made by the dominant estate owner. The court ruled that as long as the improvements do not unreasonably interfere with the servient estate owner’s use and enjoyment of their property, the dominant estate owner has the right to make reasonable improvements. This case reinforced the principle that the right to improvement is subject to reasonableness and the rights of all parties involved.
Doe v. Smith County involved a dispute over the right to improve a public trail easement. The court ruled that the government entity responsible for the trail had the authority to make reasonable improvements to enhance public safety and accessibility. This case emphasized the importance of balancing the rights of the public and the property owner when it comes to improvements on public easements.
By referencing these legal precedents, it becomes evident that the interpretation and application of express easements and the right to improvement are not set in stone. Courts have recognized the need for flexibility and fairness in determining the extent of improvements allowed under express easements. It is crucial for property owners and parties involved in express easements to be aware of these legal precedents and consult with legal professionals to ensure their rights and obligations are protected
f additional content that you can include in your article to address common disputes that may arise in relation to express easements and the right to improvement:
While express easements and the right to improvement can provide valuable benefits to property owners, they can also give rise to disputes and conflicts. Understanding these common disputes is essential for property owners to navigate potential challenges. Let’s explore some typical conflicts that may arise:
One common dispute revolves around the extent of improvements that can be made under an express easement. The dominant estate owner may believe they have the right to make substantial improvements, while the servient estate owner may argue that the improvements exceed the original intent of the easement. To resolve such disagreements, it is important to carefully review the terms of the easement agreement, consider any relevant legal precedents, and seek legal advice if necessary.
Improvements made under an express easement can sometimes cause interference with neighboring properties. For example, if a driveway is widened or rerouted, it may encroach upon neighboring land or obstruct access. In such cases, neighboring property owners may raise concerns about the impact on their own property rights. Resolving these disputes often requires open communication, negotiation, and potentially seeking mediation to find a mutually acceptable solution.
Another common dispute relates to the responsibility for maintenance and repairs of improvements made under an express easement. The easement agreement may not explicitly address these obligations, leading to disagreements between the parties involved. It is crucial to review the terms of the agreement and consider local laws to determine the respective responsibilities. If the easement agreement is silent on this matter, it may be necessary to negotiate and establish a fair arrangement for maintenance and repairs.
Sometimes, a dominant estate owner may make unauthorized improvements beyond what is permitted under the express easement agreement. This can lead to disputes with the servient estate owner, who may argue that the unauthorized improvements are infringing upon their property rights. Resolving such conflicts often requires careful examination of the easement agreement, legal principles, and potentially seeking legal recourse to address the unauthorized improvements.
When disputes arise in relation to express easements and the right to improvement, it is advisable to seek legal advice from a qualified attorney specializing in California real estate law.
The attorneys at Schorr Law are well versed in all different types of easement issues. Are you looking for a property easement dispute attorney in Los Angeles? Schorr Law has the top rated property easement dispute lawyers in California. At Schorr Law we have experienced real estate attorneys in California. Call 310-954-1877 to schedule a consult. To see if you qualify for a free 30 minute consultation, contact us by phone at (310) 954-1877 or by email at [email protected]. You can also send us a message by filling out the contact form on this page.