Understanding Easement Disputes in Maryland
Easements are one of the biggest sources of conflict in Maryland property law. Many people do not understand how easements operate and the powerful rights they include.
To appreciate easement disputes, it is helpful to review the operation of easements, how they are created, and whether they pass to a new owner when the property is sold.
An Easement Creates a Legal Right of Use
An easement is a legally-recognized interest in real estate, but it does not involve ownership. An easement gives the holder a legal right to use the property. Easements are usually quite specific, limited to using a certain portion of land for a specific purpose.
For instance, someone who owns a piece of property that is landlocked and doesn’t connect to a public road might have an easement to use a driveway or path across the neighbor’s property to reach the road. As another example, utility companies often have easements to install and maintain lines for electricity, gas, and water distribution.
If your property is subject to an easement, you do not have the right to block access to the easement holder. You couldn’t refuse to allow BGE to service the electric lines on your property if they hold a legally valid easement granting them such use. You also could not build a wall that prevents your neighbor with an easement from reaching the street. The uses permitted through an easement are not merely a courtesy but a legally protected right.
Easements Can Be Created in Different Ways
Many people do not realize their property is subject to an easement, and that is the source of many disputes. Under Maryland law, easements can be created by:
- An express grant. These must comply with statutory requirements and are written out in a deed or contract
- Reservation when land is conveyed. Someone selling or giving land to another would withhold a right to use it through an easement.
- Implication. Implied easements can arise from circumstances such as necessity or repeated use. Proving the existence of an easement by implication may require considerable evidence and a well-organized, persuasive argument to the court.
In many cases, a court will find an easement by necessity exists if the easement is essential to the “enjoyment” of the property. However, this necessity must be demonstrated, which can be complex.
Common Easement Disputes
Conflicts over the right to use land belonging to another can involve a wide array of issues and circumstances. Some of the most common easement disputes in Maryland include:
- Allegations that an easement is being used for an unauthorized purpose
- Complaints of interference with easement rights
- Disagreements about whether an easement is appurtenant and “runs with the land” when the property is sold or whether the easement was granted only to one specific owner of the property and is extinguished when the property is sold
If one property owner puts in a fence, building, or other improvements on property belonging to a neighbor, a court might determine that the owner must pay the neighbor for an easement instead of removing the improvement.
Help with Easement Disputes in Maryland
The laws involving easements and other property rights are based on ancient concepts interpreted extensively by courts over the years. That makes this a very complex area of law. Slight differences in details can make a big difference in the outcome of a case.
At The Law Office of Ralph W. Powers, Jr., P.C., we know how to build a persuasive argument to support your objectives in easement disputes. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist in your situation.