Easement agreements are used to address a wide array of issues and interests of landowners including resolving property disputes, clarifying property rights between neighbors or granting new rights of access. Common to all however, is the fact that one person's land will be used by another party or person or sometimes many parties and persons. Right of way agreements that allow others to pass and repass over the land of another often raise questions about the liability of the landowner for loss or injury occurring to the easement holder or third parties who might use the easement-whether with permission or without. What then are the essential duties involved in this relationship and what can be done to mitigate exposure to landowners? As we will see, the relationship between the landowner (the owner of the servient estate) and the easement holder (the owner of the dominant estate) and various third parties is governed by competing legal propositions.
Sometimes you just run across decided cases that are so full of concise, black letter law, well-reasoned issues of first impression and multiple, alternate law-based rationales supporting the decision (read: iron-clad), that you have to share them. Sullivan v. O'Connor, 81 Mass. App. Ct. 200 (2012), decided almost a year ago in January, is one of those cases.
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.
In many real estate cases, a thorough title search is often necessary to understand the nature of the interests held in the property in question. A title search will also help identify any encumbrances and/or interested parties that may affect the outcome of the pending matter.
Chances are that most people are not aware that "waste" is a cause of action that can be brought against life tenants who mismanage real property while it is in their possession.
In real estate law, the partition of land (and buildings thereon) is a useful, and often necessary tool , that can be used to divide property when the land is owned by two or more individuals holding undivided interests. The right to partition is an absolute right and does not require the consent of other co-tenants. Notably, partition is not available in those cases where the land is held by husband and wife as tenants by the entirety.
When the Commonwealth or a municipality takes land by eminent domain, the landowner is entitled to "just and reasonable compensation" for his loss. The measure of damages the landowner is entitled to is based on the fair market value of the property taken at the time of the recording of the order of taking.
Many people may not realize that in Massachusetts, "[a]n eminent domain taking in fee simple extinguishes all other interests in the subject property. In particular, where an easement exists, the taking of the servient estate will destroy the easement rights of the dominant estate." New England Continental Media, Inc. v. Milton, 32 Mass. App. Ct. 374, 376 (1992). This means that if an individual has easement rights over a parcel of land that is ultimately taken by eminent domain, those rights are terminated once the taking occurs.
Boundary disputes can arise in a number of ways. Perhaps a landowner wants to install a fence or septic system, and the location of the boundary line becomes an issue with the neighbor. Other cases can come about innocently, such as when a landowner discovers (via a survey undertaken by a qualified land surveyor) that property lines are not located as originally thought, with buildings or other structures found to be encroaching on an abutting lot.
With summer weather upon us, beach and shoreline access is a timely topic.