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Easement Basics Part II: How Easements Are Created

In this part II of our series on easement basics, we will discuss how easements are created. Broadly-speaking, easements are established in three ways: by (1) express grant/reservation; (2) implication; and (3) prescription. As to each of these theories, "[o]ne claiming the benefit of an easement bears the burden of proving the existence of that easement on the servient estate." Hickey v. Pathways Ass'n, Inc., 472 Mass. 735, 753-754 (2015). This burden extends to the extent and scope of any use rights over the Right of Way. Swensen v. Marino, 306 Mass. 582, 583 (1940) (scope); Hamouda v. Harris, 66 Mass. App. Ct. 22, 24 n. 1 (2006) (extent). Each theory of easement creation will be addressed in turn.

An Alternative Avenue for Adjudicating Zoning Questions: Declarations Under G.L. c. 240, §14A

The Massachusetts Zoning Act sets forth a thorough process for those persons seeking or opposing zoning relief to have their grievances adjudicated. Usually, the first stop is at the local building inspector or zoning enforcement officer. If unsatisfied, an appeal is typically available to the zoning board of appeals. Finally, after "exhausting" this administrative process, a party may file an appeal to the Land Court or Superior Court. If the dispute has arisen from the issuance or denial of a building permit (or other zoning relief), the foregoing process is obligatory (with a few rare exceptions). This obligation is referred to as the duty to "exhaust" administrative remedies.

Easement Basics Part I: What They Are, Appurtenant Versus Personal Easements, and the Taxonomy of Claims

A significant percentage of our case load, here, at Phillips & Angley, involves disputes over easements, also known as use rights, particularly over access and private way issues. Easement law comprises some of the oldest law in the United States, as we inherited many of the legal concepts and rules from England, in Colonial times. It has its own terms of art, causes of action and particular rules, developed over the centuries as the common law has evolved. This is the first in a series of posts that are intended to give a basic primer on these issues.

Zoning issues specific to Boston businesses

It is not always easy to find commercial space that is appropriate for the needs of a business and fits within a company's budget. You may find this struggle is particularly prevalent in Boston, where real estate is expensive, hard to find and difficult to secure. If you are looking for a commercial building or space to run your company, you will also need to consider zoning laws as well. 

The intent of zoning laws is to preserve the interests of property owners in specific areas. These designations keep gas stations from popping up in the middle of a residential neighborhood or a person living between two storefronts. In an old city such as Boston, you also have to think about the possibility of a building's designation being historically valuable. There are many things you may need to know to fully understand how zoning laws could impact your company.

Application of General Laws Chapter 40A, Section 7 and the Two Limitation Periods for Zoning Enforcement to an Improperly Sited Structure.

Recently we were asked to address the situation where a landowner obtained a use special permit with a condition that the structure containing the use be built as located on a designated site plan, and that a final as-built plan be filed after completion of construction. A building permit issued for the structure, but without reference to the site plan or location of the structure. The structure was built and occupied. No final as-built plan was ever filed. More than 10 years passed. It was later determined that the structure was sited on the lot incorrectly. The landowner became concerned that the structure located on its property was not properly authorized and so was unlawful, rendering the property non-compliant with zoning.

Accounting Actions in Partition Proceedings; How Partition Sale Proceeds Are Divided and Disbursed

As previously discussed in our blog post regarding the Nuts and Bolts of a Petition to Partition, a partition proceeding is a legal action to dispose of jointly held property "to balance the rights and equities of the parties concerning the property at issue." Gonzales v. Pierce-Williams, 68 Mass. App. Ct. 785, 787 (2007), quoting Moat v. Ducharme, 28 Mass. App. Ct. 749, 751 (1990). In order to balance the equities of the parties, the court has wide latitude, in equity, to determine how the proceeds from a partition sale the partition should be distributed. See G. L. c. 241, § 25.

Standing Gets Stickier: Murchison v. Zoning Bd. Of Appeals of Sherborn

We have written a number of posts over the years discussing the requirements for standing in zoning appeals in Massachusetts, see here, here, here, here, here, and here to start. On September 30, 2019, the Appeals Court decided to add another twist to this already complicated body of law.

Variance Conditions Revisited: Green v. Board of Appeals of Southborough; The Difference between Exercising Variances and Satisfying their Conditions

We previously blogged about a case study, which we encountered in representation of a kennel before a local zoning board, regarding how conditions of variances work and how they are applied and enforced. Recently, the Appeals Court published Green v. Board of Appeals of Southborough, adding to the body of law on these issues. In particular, Judge Wolohojian, writing for the panel in Green, explicated the difference between those things which a variance holder must do to "exercise" the variance within one year as required by G. L. c. 40A, § 10, on the one hand; and the meaning and effect of a variance condition, which acts as a condition precedent (a precondition) to a holder being able to take advantage of the variance, on the other. As discussed below, the former refers to those acts necessary to give the variance legal effect, in the first instance; whereas the latter must be fulfilled in order for the variance holder ultimately to make use of the variance.

The Nuts and Bolts of a Petition to Partition: Filing a Petition with the Court

A petition to partition initiates a legal proceeding, which allows a co-owner of real property to dispose of the same by physical division or forcing a sale. Petitions to partition are governed by G.L. c. 241. Each co-owner of property has the "'equal right of entry, occupation and enjoyment'". Hershman-Tcherepnin v. Tcherepnin, 452 Mass. 77, 90 (2008), quoting Muskeget Island Club v. Prior, 228 Mass. 95, 96 (1917). However, if, for whatever reason, a co-owner no longer wishes to hold title to the property with his or her other co-owners, then that individual has an absolute right to file a petition to partition to dispose of the co-owned property. See Hershman-Tcherepnin, supra at 92. Parties can, however, enter a contract that may limit or restrain their rights to partition co-owned property, if the restraint is for a reasonable period of time. See id. at 93.

Appeal Bonds: A Litigation Unicorn

In Massachusetts (and United States, generally), civil litigants are responsible for paying their own legal fees. This concept is known as the "American Rule". It matters not that you were sued by your neighbor and did not want to be involved in a lawsuit; or that you felt compelled to bring suit against a developer as a last ditch effort to protect the character of your neighborhood. It also does not matter if you win. You are going to pay your legal fees. There are, as in all things in the legal world, some limited exceptions to the American Rule, and we will discuss those in another blog post.

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