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 Illinois?
Who is responsible formaintaining an easement? The short answer is that it depends on the document that created the easement. In most instances, the responsibility falls on the person who has the easement right. 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 and cannot alter its use of the easement in such a way as to unduly increase the burden on the underlying property. 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 use the easement “in any reasonable manner which is necessary for the owner to fully enjoy the premises,” if they do not place an unreasonable burden on the servient land or estate. 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 akin to 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. In a rare instance, if the actions of the servient estate owner are severe, a court may award punitive damages as well.
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.Illinois recognizes express easements, implied easements and presumed easements. Implied and presumed easements are those where there is no express “agreement” governing the easement.
What is an Easement by Necessity and an Easement Arising From a Pre-Existing Use?
Illinois law recognizes an easement by necessity as one of the two types of an implied easement (along with an easement arising from a pre-existing use). 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 no other means to access his property, a court will create an easement by necessity for ingress and egress. An easement arising from a pre-existing use is found when: (1) the dominant and servient estates were both owned by the same party prior to separation of title; (2) the easement was used in an “apparent, obvious, continuous and manifestly permanent manner” before the separation; (3) the easement is necessary for the “beneficial enjoyment” of the property. However, a party claiming an easement from a pre-existing use does not have to prove prior use if the land cannot be used absent the easement or without great expense and effort. As such, if there are reasonable alternatives for ingress and egress, an easement from a pre-existing use will not be found.
What is a Presumed or Prescriptive Easement?
A presumed easement, or 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 open, uninterrupted, continuous, exclusive, and adverse for a period of 20 years. If no single period of adverse use amounts to the 20-year statutory period, a party claiming a prescriptive interest may tack the possessory periods of their predecessors in interest to satisfy the required period if the claimant can show privity of use. Illinois 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 Attorney in Illinois Today
Easement disputes can be difficult to understand but having an experienced real estate lawyer can help. At Hirzel Law, PLC, our Illinois 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 (312) 646-2770 to see how our Illinois attorneys can help with quiet title claims regarding your Illinois property.
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