Facts: An access and utility easement crosses a property to provide ingress and egress to an adjoining rear property via a driveway. The owners of the rear property improve the easement with pavement, plantings, irrigation and lighting. The owners of the front property do not object to these improvements and the rear property owners maintain the improvements for many years. When the rear property owners sell the property, its new owners continue to use and maintain the improvements to the easement across the front property, the owners of which later sell to a new owner as well. The new owner of the front property is fully aware of the existence of the easement and the improvements made thereupon by the rear property’s previous owners and maintained by its current owners. Six years after purchasing the front property, its new owners demand the rear property owners remove the improvements to the easement crossing the front property.
Claim: The front property owners seek the removal of improvements to the access and utility easement, arguing that the improvements exceed the purpose of the easement and the rear property owners never gained the express permission of the front property owners to make improvements.
Counterclaim: The rear property owners seek to maintain the improvements to the easement, claiming that the previous front property owners’ acquiescence to the improvements and the considerable expense and effort in improving and maintaining the easement on the part of both the current and previous rear property owners establish an irrevocable license to continue to maintain the easement improvements.
Holding: A California Court of Appeals holds that the rear property owners’ effort and expenditure in improving and maintaining the easement combined with the front property owners’ failure to object to the improvements for the first six years establish the rear owners’ right to an irrevocable license to maintain the improved easement across the front property regardless of the explicit or implied nature of both the current and previous front owners’ permission. [Richardson v. Franc (2015) 233 CA4th 744]