Facts: A property owner purchased an undeveloped, landlocked parcel. The seller and his broker incorrectly told the owner an easement existed allowing access to the property via a driveway crossing an adjacent neighbor’s property. The property owner began to develop his parcel using the driveway. The neighbor accused the property owner of trespassing.

Claim: The property owner sought to establish an equitable easement over the homeowner’s property, claiming it was necessary to access his property since it was landlocked and the easement would result in little to no hardship to the neighbor.

Counter claim: The neighbor sought to prevent the establishment of the easement, claiming the property owner’s use of the driveway was not long-standing enough to merit an equitable easement since he had just begun to develop the parcel.

Holding: A California appeals court held the owner held an equitable easement over the neighboring property since long-standing use is not a condition for granting an equitable easement, and access to the driveway was necessary for the owner to access his property, causing relatively little hardship for the neighbor.

Also at issue in this case:

Facts: A property owner held an equitable easement to access his property over his neighbor’s driveway. The recorded easement caused no economic hardship for the neighbor.

Claim: The neighbor sought monetary compensation for providing the easement, claiming he deserved compensation for allowing the property owner’s use of his land since a recorded easement usually results in compensation.

Counter claim: The property owner claimed the neighbor was not entitled to compensation since the neighbor experienced no hardship from the easement, as the neighbor’s property value was unaffected.

Holding: A California court of appeals held the neighbor is not entitled to money compensation from the property owner for his use of the easement since the neighbor did not demonstrate any lost property value resulting from the easement. [Tashakori v. Lakis (2011) 196 CA 4th 1003]

Editor’s note – An equitable easement is formed if three factors are present:

• the easement is the result of an encroachment which is innocent;
• the party seeking the easement will suffer irreparable injury if he is not granted the easement; and
• the party forced to allow the easement will suffer relatively little to no hardship.

If an equitable easement is granted, the property owner benefiting from the easement does not owe compensation to the burdened property owner, unless the burdened owner can demonstrate his property value has been diminished by the easement.