A friend of mine is going through a dispute with a neighbor about a right-of-way and I thought it was worth sharing. Many pieces of property have legal right-of-ways that grant access to pieces of property for many reasons. Furthermore, many property owners arean’t always aware of the right-of-ways and the significance of them. Most right-of-ways are commonly described as easements.
An easement is a legal term used to describe an “interest” to use a piece of land that you do not physically own. For example, your neighbor owns a piece of land directly behind your land and he does not have direct access (frontage) to the road. However, he has an easement deeded to him with his land that allows him to use a specific piece of your land for that access. The easement would contain very specific measurements and language indicating exactly where that access occurs on your property. This is very common with land locked pieces of property that have no frontage on a road.
Common Property Dispute
So my friend owns a piece of land that has no frontage to the nearest road. However, she does have a deeded right-of-way or easement across her neighbors land that grants her access from the public road to her property. Her neighbor that owns the land which the easement is located on wants to build a garage on his land within the easement. As you can imagine this creates a very big problem for my friend as far as her deeded access. This is a very common problem that arises when one property owner wants to build or alter in some way an easement that has been in existence for many years.
Luckily for my friend she was notified by the Town Zoning Board of Adjustment about a public hearing in which the neighbor was asking for a variance in order to build the garage within the towns legal property setback. Abutters are always notified about Zoning hearings in the State of New Hampshire. When she attended the meeting she was suprised to learn that no one from the town was aware of her easement and right-0f-way to her property.
She was able to show the Zoning Board her deed and ultimately prevent the neighbor from building his new garage within the easement. What I wanted to point out is how important it is to attend public hearings when you are identified as an abutter. I also want to point out how important it is to read your deed occasionally and understand what rights are attached to your neighbor or the general public with respect to your property. Had my friend not attended that meeting it’s very likely that the neighbor would have been granted a variance to build his new garage. This is not to say that she could have taken the neighbor to court and had the garage torn down, but you can imagine the cost and aggravation that would have caused.
What are your thoughts? Have you ever had a dispute with a neighbor regarding property rights?