Facts: A property owner was granted an appurtenant easement over their neighbor’s property. The deed which granted the easement did not state the precise boundaries of the easement. For numerous years, the owner limited their use to only one section of the easement. The remainder of the easement was used solely by the neighbor and subsequent neighbors who owned the burdened property. The owner later began to expand their use of the easement, encroaching on the section used by a subsequent neighbor.

Claim: The subsequent neighbor sought to prevent the owner’s expanded use of the easement, claiming the owner was not entitled to areas of the easement beyond their historic use since the owner had established the boundaries of the easement through their continued use of only one section.

Counter claim: The owner claimed they were entitled to the full easement since the deed granting the easement did not specifically define the boundaries of the easement.

Holding: A California court of appeals held the owner was not entitled to expand their use of the easement since the boundaries of the easement and the extent of the owner’s use were established by their historic use of the easement. [Rye v. Tahoe Truckee Sierra Disposal Company, Inc. (December 18, 2013)_CA4th_]


Editor’s note – For a further discussion of easements, see first tuesday Legal Aspects (Chapter 20: Easements: running or personal and Chapter 22: Interference and termination of easements).