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Easements & Boundary Disputes Attorneys in Granite Bay, California

Protect Your Boundary Lines

Easements give someone the right to use another person’s land for a limited purpose. However, legal disputes may arise regarding who should have access to the land and under what circumstances. A real estate lawyer at Herrig, Vogt & Hensley, LLP can help evaluate the circumstances involving your boundary dispute and explain what legal options may be available to you.

Types of Easements

There are several different types of easements. For example, one common easement is a right-of-way easement. This easement allows someone the right to cross over land owned by another person, usually to access a public road. Utility easements allow utility companies the right to access land to install, maintain, repair, and upgrade water pipes, sewer pipes, and electric lines.

Express easements are another common type of easement. They are specifically created in a deed or other written document that describes the permitted use. The express easement details the scope of the use and the conditions for using it. This easement must be recorded so that future land purchasers are aware of it. A recorded easement remains in place and transfers even after a property is sold.

Prescriptive easements are almost the opposite of express easements in that they do not rely on the granting of permission or understanding by the affected landowner. Instead, they are similar to adverse possession principles in that they arise from continued and unchallenged use of another’s land for one’s own benefit. A prescriptive easement is formed when a person uses the land owned by another in a continuous and open manner for at least five years without the landowner’s consent. In this context, “continuous” denotes use that is as frequent as appropriate under the circumstances. While a prescriptive easement does not transfer the legal title to a property, it does create a right to use another landowner’s property for a specific purpose.

Easements by necessity or implication also may arise without the land owner’s express consent, but they are limited in the application under California law.

Legal Principles that Apply to Boundary Disputes

There are several legal principles that may apply to boundary disputes, such as:

The Agreed-Boundary Doctrine

California courts have adopted a principle that when a landowner has accepted a boundary line over time that they may not later object to this line. This legal principle is known as the “agreed-boundary doctrine.” This doctrine allows adjoining property owners to agree to the common boundary of their land when they may not be certain about where the actual boundary lies. However, a landowner cannot unilaterally change the legal boundary lines by simply erecting a fence.

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Relative Hardship Doctrine

Another legal doctrine that may apply in boundary dispute cases is the relative hardship doctrine. Under this doctrine, a property owner who innocently makes improvements to land that actually belongs to another person may be permitted to keep the improvements as part of their own property even if these improvements encroached upon an adjoining land owner’s property interest. In these situations, the court can consider whether the improvements significantly outweigh the hardship that the adjoining land owner will experience if the encroaching improvements remained.  

In these cases, California courts apply the “relative hardship doctrine” to fashion appropriate remedies for a trespass by encroachment on another's land. If the court determines that one landowner’s property is encroaching upon the ownership interest of another, it then conducts an equitable balancing test. Based on the results of this test, the court may order an injunction prohibiting the trespass or may award damages. The balancing test considers these three factors:

  1. Whether the land owner innocently encroached on the adjoining land owner’s property;

  2. Whether the encroaching neighbor would suffer significant financial injury if he or she was forced to remove the encroachment; and

  3. Whether the hardship that would be caused by ordering the removal of the encroachment would be disproportionately greater than the hardship on the neighbor that would result if the court allowed the encroachment to remain.   

If the encroachment is extremely difficult or costly to remove and is causing little inconvenience to the adjacent property owner, the balancing test weighs in favor of allowing the encroachment to remain. However, the court may award the adjacent landowner monetary damages for the loss of use of the property due to the encroachment. Additionally, the court may only permit the encroachment while the property owner resides on the property. If the property owner moves or sells the home, the improvements may be ordered removed.

Experienced Legal Help for Your Boundary Dispute

The real estate attorneys from Herrig, Vogt & Hensley, LLP bring more than a century of legal experience with them to every case. We can help analyze the circumstances involved in your boundary dispute and explain which legal principles may apply. We can use this information to negotiate a fair out-of-court settlement or proceed to court to protect your property interests.

Learn more about our real estate legal services and receive a free case evaluation by contacting us online or by calling us now.