Easement Dispute Attorneys

michigan easement dispute lawyerMichigan Easement Dispute Attorneys

Easements are important property interests, and when there is misuse or interference with easements, disputes over the easement can be complicated. Knowing and understanding your rights and obligations regarding easement law is important when involved in such disputes. With years of experience in real estate matters handling easement disagreements, the Hirzel Law attorneys are well equipped to assist you in any easement dispute you may have.

Who is Responsible for Maintaining an Easement in Michigan?

Who is responsible for maintaining an easement? The short answer is the owner of the easement. A landowner that has an easement over the property of another landowner is the holder of the dominant estate.  A landowner owner that has an easement pass through property that they own is the holder of the servient estate. In most cases, the owner of an easement may use the easement, within its intended scope, and they may maintain the easement. Importantly, the owner of the servient estate cannot interfere with the owner of the dominant estate’s ability to use and enjoy an easement. For example, if your neighbor puts up a locked gate on a driveway that you have the right to drive, then you have the right to unlock the gate or challenge the owner for putting it up when you have a legal right to the land. 

What Rights Does an Easement Holder Have?

Generally, an easement holder, i.e., the owner of the dominant estate, has a right to do “whatever is reasonably convenient or necessary in order to enjoy fully the purposes for which the easement was granted,” if they do not place an unreasonable burden on the servient land. On the other hand, the owner of the servient land may make any use of that land that does not improperly interfere with the easement holder’s use of the easement. What constitutes an undue burden depends on the facts of each individual situation.

If a court determines that a servient estate is improperly burdened by unreasonable use of the easement, the owner has several potential legal remedies. These include court orders restricting the dominant owner to an appropriate enjoyment of the easement, monetary damages when the easement holder exceeds the scope of their rights and damages the servient estate, and in some cases termination of the easement.

Likewise, remedies exist for interference by the servient owner. Interference with an easement is a form of trespass, and courts frequently order the removal of an obstruction to an easement. If interference with an easement causes a reduction in the value of the dominant estate, courts may also award compensatory damages to the easement holder.

How to Enforce Easement Rights?

If your rights under an easement are being interfered with, you should consult with a easement dispute attorney to determine your rights.  One of the most common disputes revolves around the scope of the easement and whether the use of an easement has impermissibly been expanded over time.  Similarly, disputes often arise regarding cost sharing arrangements related to the maintenance of easements.  If an issue cannot be resolved out of court, an action for declaratory relief regarding the scope of easement may be necessary. Similarly, a claim for monetary damages or injunctive relief may be appropriate depending on the circumstances as well.

What is an Easement by Necessity?

Michigan law recognizes an easement by necessity.  An easement by necessity is created when a landowner is landlocked and needs access for ingress and egress over another’s property.  If the landowner has not other means to access his property, a court will create an easement by necessity. An easement by necessity may be implied where a landowner splits property so that one of the resulting parcels is landlocked except for access across the other parcel.  An easement by necessity may arise either by grant, where the grantor created a landlocked parcel in his grantee, or it may arise by reservation, where the grantor splits his property and leaves the property landlocked. A right of way of necessity is not a perpetual right. It ceases to exist when the necessity for its continuance ceases.

What is a Prescriptive Easement?

An easement by prescription can be created based on physical use of property over time. A party claiming a prescriptive easement must provide evidence possession that is actual, continuous, open, notorious, exclusive, hostile, and uninterrupted for a period of 15 years. If “no single period” of adverse use amounts to the 15-year statutory period, a party claiming a prescriptive interest may tack the possessory periods of their predecessors in interest “to aggregate the 15-year period of prescription” if the claimant can show privity of estate. Privity of estate may shown when a deed includes a description of the disputed property, when there is an actual transfer or conveyance of the disputed property by parol statements made at the time of conveyance, or if a property owner is “well-acquainted” with the previous property owner and had visited and used the disputed property “for many years” before acquiring title. Similarly, Michigan caselaw makes clear that a claimant seeking to prove the existence of a prescriptive easement may establish that the requisite elements were met by the claimant’s predecessor in interest. When a prescriptive easement vests with the claimant’s predecessors in interest, the easement is appurtenant and transfers to subsequent owners in the property’s chain of title.

Contact an Easement Dispute Lawyer in Michigan Today

Easement disputes can be difficult to understand but having an experienced real estate lawyer can help. At Hirzel Law, PLC, our Michigan easement lawyers can help you with any disputes that may arise. We stand by our clients, offering the highest quality legal representation and promptly responding to our clients’ needs.

Contact Hirzel Law online or call 248-986-2921 (Farmington) or 231-486-5600 (Traverse City) or 616-319-9964 (Grand Rapids office) to see how our Michigan easement attorneys can help with issues that arise on your Michigan property.

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