What is a Driveway Easement?

There is more than one type of easement that might be applicable to your real estate property. In fact, each easement can trigger separate legal hurdles. Here’s the thing – when you own a piece of land, you may necessarily be the only one with access.

If you own a condo, you may already have an easement to facilitate utility services. Right-of-way has become a standard easement used by the owners for a driveway. In most cases, easement works for two parties or two property owners. A shared driveway can cross your land and reach your property. It can also hit branches and reach to neighbor’s home.

With an easement, your neighbor gets legal access to utilize your driveway. After easement, it would be unwise to hamper your neighbor’s ability to use the shared driveway. Technically, it is your property, but you still cannot take the shared driveway out of the picture.

Let’s dive into more basics of driveway easement, what constitutes a shared easement, and what gets an easement revoked:

What is a Driveway Easement?

Like other easements related to property, an easement makes it possible for the property owner to allow the use of its driveway for one or multiple parties. It is crucial to understand that easement does not give property rights to the shared parties. Instead, it allows limited access to shared parties to utilize the property’s driveway.

Easement period

Oftentimes, an easement sets a timeframe for shared parties to access the driveway space. You can look at a driveway easement holder through the lens of a shared parking space between the owner and the neighbor.

Often, easement divides two properties that are in close juxtaposition. It means two closely situated properties can have an easement that gives access to a neighbor to use a ladder to use the land owner’s roof for multiple purposes.  

When it comes to jurisdiction, easement can vary. In fact, it depends on the local passed laws and ordinances to make driveway easement applicable. Typically, it is best to check local laws and ordinances to ensure compliance.

Neighbor’s property

Usually, an assessor has updated maps of the property to set clear easement boundaries. It also allows an assessor to check other easements that tie together with your property. This makes it all the more important to disclose easements and property lines for land ownership. The same rules apply to disclose an existing easement, a private easement, an implied easement, or a written easement. Oftentimes, a property owner gives a verbal license or permission to use the driveway for specific purposes.

However, verbal license or permission or not a legally binding easement and does not hold up. In fact, it is easier to dissolve a verbal license or permission. As mentioned earlier, an owner’s best course of action is to have a signed driveway agreement in writing after consulting with a local lawyer.

Types of Easements

Now, a driveway easement falls into two categories; private and public. Mostly, an easement works as a private agreement among commercial businesses and people. On the other hand, a public easement holder gives direct access to the general public to use the driveway.

An easement can also come into play when someone wants to use your property for a specific period. But this also requires prerequisite permission and cannot be done without proper permission from the legal owner of the property.

Who maintains a Driveway Easement Agreement?

Whether you enter or maintain an easement contract, it is vital to have an open line of communication to avoid surprises or any unexpected elements. In fact, the problems associated with an easement usually arise when there is no clear understanding between the property owner and the neighbor.

And if the owner has a tarnished relationship with a neighbor, it can lead to more issues. In terms of the driveway agreement, the most common issue boils down to the extent of responsibility to maintain the real estate property.

Role of the property owner on Property Easements

When the neighbor and the property owner expect property maintenance, it creates confusion and direct conflict. Therefore, the owner should be clear about the required maintenance standards right from the start before granting access to its driveway to the neighbor or another party.

Whether it’s making upgrades, property line, resurfacing, or plowing the driveway, the owner should be clear about the degree of accessibility of its driveway and the conditions in which the neighbor or other parties can use the driveway.

If there is a conflict or dispute, all parties should discuss the options to use the driveway and come to an understanding. Oftentimes, conditions and accessibility parameters related to driveway easement are renegotiated to facilitate the owner.

From the property owner’s perspective, it would be an amateur move to file a lawsuit before resolving the issue with the neighbor or another party in person. However, if there is intentional damage to the property or the neighbor refuses to pay for agreed-upon renovations, the owner can seek legal action. But even then, it is better to reach out to a lawyer and try to resolve the issue before it reaches the court.

Is a Shared Driveway an Easement?

An easement refers to an agreement or a contract to own, possess, or use part of someone else’s property for a limited time. Keeping that in mind, a shared driveway works as an easement. However, based on this logic, owners and involved parties have to adhere to the pre-determined rules to use the driveway.

Role of property owners

When it comes to shared driveway easement, the location of the driveway matters the most. Remember, shared easement can apply to single or multiple properties. And this type of easement work as an appurtenant easement or prescriptive easement that highlights a dominant party.

Can a Driveway Easement Be Terminated?

If an easement is accepted via verbal license or permission, then it can be revoked. The easement works when it is in writing and highlights all the accessibility parameters that apply to a neighbor or other parties.

But property owner has the legal right to revoke formal and informal driveway easement agreements. However, to terminate an easement, all parties have to be on the same page and ensure no party is directly or solely benefiting from the contract.

When the driveway easement is revoked, it leaves the neighbor or other party no option but to withdraw their claim to access the property driveway. A legal order can also end the easement for a neighbor or other parties.

Similarly, if the owner and the neighbor or other parties mutually agree that there is no need for a driveway easement to exist, then it can be terminated. But revoking an easement based on this situation is rare. And that’s because both the property owner and the neighbor benefit from having an easement contract.

If the driveway easement has run its course, it would also lead to termination. However, in this case, there has to be clear intent from the property owner not to allow the use of its driveway. In this case, easement leads to claim abandonment. But this type of easement may not serve the best interests of the owner.

Often, a direct legal intervention leads to easement claim abandonment. In some situations, a disagreement over an easement leads to legal proceedings. Driveway easement gets revoked if the property owner or the neighbor takes the matter to court. In fact, most interventions can trigger the termination of the driveway easement.

Final thoughts

When using a neighbor’s driveway or facilitating other situations involving a driveway, owners should sign a driveway easement. An easement has become more vital today than many landowners realize. An easement has to be in writing and should grant clear access to a neighbor or other surrounding parties to your driveway.  

Now, before you draft an easement agreement on your own, make sure to reach out to an experienced lawyer to discuss different elements of the contract. It is crucial for property owners to have a proactive approach to learn about the easement and put it into practice.

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