Servitudes

No right to pave prescriptive easement in rural area

In a case that rests on neighborhood norms and prescriptive easement doctrine, the Massachusetts Land Court has held that while an easement owner can maintain an easement, the easement owner here could not pave the road even though the unpaved road had holes that made it difficult to drive and had damaged the easement owner's car. Unpaved roads were common to the area and desired by the owner of the servient estate...

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Prescriptive easement to discharge water onto neighboring land

The Massachusetts Land Court has held that an owner can acquire the right to collect and discharge surface water onto neighboring land by prescription if this continues without permission by the servient estate owner and the other requirements for prescriptive easements are met. JPM Dev., LLC v. Nemetz, 2018 WL 4892726 (Mass. Land Ct. 2018). However, in a companion case, it emphasized that the amount of discharge is set by the historic use throughout the prescription period and any increase in that use is a trepass. Putney v. O'Brien, 2018 WL 6183338 (Mass. Land Ct. 2018).

Short term rental use held not to violate covenant prohibiting "commercial activity"

The courts continue to split on this question with the majority holding use of property for short-term rental (such as vacation rental or Airbnb use) is a residential rather than a commercial use. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has joined the courts that have found short-term home rentals to be consistent with a covenant prohibiting "commercial activity."...

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Restrictive covenant held not to be "property" compensable under the takings clause

A town bought a parcel of land subject to a restrictive covenant in order to build a municipal water storage tank contrary to a restrictive covenant prohibiting such construction. The town sued for a declaratory judgment that it could violate the covenant without paying just compensation under the fourteenth amendment's takings clause. Relying on an earlier case decided by the Colorado Supreme Court, Smith v. Clifton...

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No easement relocation without easement owner's consent when it would diminish the easement's utility

Applying the rule in M.P.M. Builders, LLLC v. Dwyer, 809 N.E.2d 1053 (Mass. 2004) and the Restatement (Third) of Property (Servitudes) §4.8(3) (2000), a court has held that a servient estate owner may not relocatee an easement without the consent of the easement owner when it would diminish the utility of the easement.Randon v. Kiley-Ladd, 2018 Mass. LCR LEXIS 152, 2018 WL 3567179 (Mass. Land Ct. 2018). The court... Read more about No easement relocation without easement owner's consent when it would diminish the easement's utility

Airbnb use held to be consistent with covenant restricting property to residential use

Courts have divided on the question of whether short-term rentals violate restrictive covenants limiting land to residential purposes. The Texas Supreme Court just joined the majority that hold that use of property for Airbnb and similar short term rentals is residential use consistent with the covenant. Tarr v. Timberwood Park Owners Ass'n, 2018 Tex. LEXIS 442 (Tex 2018). But see ... Read more about Airbnb use held to be consistent with covenant restricting property to residential use

Nonuse insufficient to show an easement was abandoned and it is not extinguished by prescription when a locked gate did not make it impossible for the easement owner to use the right of way

A locked gate did not extinguish the right to use an express easement when the fence was intended to keep out the public and did not prevent the easement owner from accessing the right of way. Twenty Bartlett, LLC v. Sgarano, 2018 Mass. Super. LEXIS 104 (Mass. Super. Ct. 2018). Only if an action renders use of an easement "practically impossible" can it start the statute of limitations running for a prescriptive easement that will extinguish the...

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