On January 4, 2017, the Land Court, Scheier J., issued a decision in Stafford v. Flett, Land Court Docket No. 15 MISC 000134 (KFS), which granted declaratory judgment to P&A's client, the Defendant, declaring that she owns outright an area of her property that included a parking spot, grassy slope, staircase, and cobblestones and flagstones pavers (the "Disputed Area"), free and clear of any of the Plaintiff's claims. In its decision, the Court denied the Plaintiff's claims for adverse possession of or, in the alternative, a prescriptive easement over the Disputed Area. The Court agreed that the element of adverse use required for claims for adverse possession and prescriptive use rights was not established by the Plaintiff due to an oral license agreement allowing Plaintiff to use the Disputed Area, which agreement had been in place since the putatively-adverse use had begun.
When attempting to establish property rights, disputes can arise for any number of reasons. A neighbor could call into question a property line, or an adjacent owner could want to take legal action over a structure on or near the property. Alternatively, the tables may be reversed and you may want the neighbor off your property or the structure taken down or moved. Either way, a property dispute is a legal issue and it must be resolved.
The recent Appeals Court case of Paine v. Sexton, 2015 WL 5567171 (Mass. App. Ct. Sept. 23, 2015), offers a new twist on some black letter law pertaining to adverse possession of wooded areas.
Initially, this post was going to be about the substantive portions of the disputed claims in Perry v. Nemira, 2015 WL 179045, 11 MISC 457157 (AHS) (Mass. Land Ct. Jan. 15, 2015), which focused primarily on claims of right via prescriptive easements and adverse possession. In a word, the decision is lengthy (mostly due to the various chains of title that must be parsed out) and hard to condense into a neat little blog post.
What is fascinating, if not maddening, about the practice of law is that just when you think you've come across every iteration of facts that can be applied to a legal doctrine or precedent, you run into a scenario that tests-or at least puts a new twist on-a seemingly foregone conclusion.
Fences, driveways, structures, lawns, gardens, trees or shrubbery often extend beyond a deeded property line and encroach onto another's property. The area of land may only be a few feet wide or consist of an entire parcel. Depending on the duration and nature of the use in those areas, the person using the property of another may have a valid claim of ownership over the property (in fee simple) or some lesser degree of property rights (i.e. prescriptive easement).