This is the next post in a series of articles about understanding real property easements in Tacoma or Olympia, Washington. The previous article discussed how easements are created. In many cases, easements are beneficial to adjoining landowners and cause few problems between them. In some cases, however, easements may complicate a landowner’s property rights and lead to disputes with neighboring landowners. This post will discuss common easement challenges and disputes. A real property attorney can assist you understand how an easement may impact your rights and how to properly handle a dispute should one arise. If you need assistance, contact my office today to speak with a lawyer.
As discussed earlier in this series, an easement is a non-possessory interest (a use right) in real property which allows someone other than the owner to use a portion of the property for a specific purpose. When neighboring landowners dispute the terms of an easement, one party may be required to challenge the other through the legal process to either enforce the arrangement or limit or terminate the easement. For example, an owner may dispute the way in which the easement holder is using his property. If an easement permits a neighbor to cross an owner’s property to access the neighboring parcel, but the neighbor begins parking vehicles on the owner’s land instead, this would be a disagreement in the terms of the easement. In other cases, the landowner may deny the existence of the easement and attempt to block the neighbor’s use entirely. This is most common when easements are implied by prior use. For instance, if new purchaser of land realizes after the purchase that the previous owner allowed their neighbor to drive farm equipment over a portion of the property by informal agreement. The new owner may wish to discontinue this practice and argue that no easement exists.
Parties on either side of an easement dispute may be forced to take legal action to challenge or enforce the terms of the easement. When the parties are unable to settle their dispute, they may be required to litigate the issue in court to resolve the matter. If either party can prove that they have suffered monetary losses because the other side has either used their land without an easement right or has prevented them from using their easement rights, they may also be entitled to recover damages as part of the process. Disputes can involve complicated legal arguments and the outcome may impact property values or restrict a party’s use of property. It is important, therefore, to consult with an experienced real estate attorney to represent your interests in an easement dispute.
If you need assistance with a commercial or residential easement issue, contact me today to speak with an Olympia property attorney. The firm also services the Thurston County cities of Lacey, Tumwater, and Yelm, the Pierce County cities of Tacoma, Puyallup, and Lakewood, the Lewis County cities of Centralia, and Chehalis, the King County cities of Seattle, Auburn, Bellevue, Burien, and Federal Way, as well as other areas in Washington, including Grays Harbor, Mason, Cowlitz, and Pacific Counties.