Extinguishment of Easements by Merger

There are many ways that an easement can be extinguished or terminated. In this post, I discuss how an easement can be extinguished by merger. In later post we will discuss situations where an easement is not extinguished by merger.

As discussed in some of our previous posts, by definition, an easement is the right to use or prevent use of the land of another. As a result, a person cannot have an easement on his or her own land. (See Civ. Code § 805.) Therefore, as further discussed below, an easement can be extinguished when the same person acquires the fee title to both dominant and servient tenements. (See Leggio v. Haggerty (1965) 231 Cal.App.2d 873, 881.)

A merger occurs where the same person owns both the land rights and the other incidental rights to property ownership. In order to effect an extinguishment of an easement by merger, the title and ownership held in both the dominant and servient tenements must be equal in all respects. (Leggio, supra, 231 Cal.App.2d at 881.) Specifically, they must be equal in validity, quality, right to possession, and all characteristics. (Id.) Accordingly, if the person has unequal title or rights in the servient and dominant tenements, the easement will not be extinguished.

For example, an easement is not extinguished by merger if an owner of the servient tenement holds title to the dominant tenant as a cotenant with several persons. Under those facts, there is no extinguishment because he did not have the complete title and right to possession of the dominant tenement, i.e. he shared the rights in the dominant tenement with other people.

Schorr Law has experience with all types of easement disputes. To inquire about a free consultation with one of our easement attorneys, please call (310) 954-1877 or email us at  info@schorr-law.com. You can also send us a message by using our Contact Form.