Land disputes between neighbors can be common. Disputes can arise when landowners build a new fence, alter a driveway, or add landscaping. Neighbors also sometimes disagree about lot lines or the location, size, or use of easements.
Settling easement disputes quickly is in your best interest because easements can significantly affect property rights and the value of land.
In Wisconsin, some common easements include: utility, driveway, ingress/egress, and lake access easements. These easements are affirmative and grant the easement holder the right to use someone else’s land for a specific purpose. In contrast, negative easements prohibit the landowner from using their land in a certain way. For example, conservation, historical preservation, or solar easements. Negative easements are less common.
Also, some easements attach to the land itself and continue to exist when land is transferred between buyer and seller. Whereas, other easements are personal to an individual or entity and are granted for a specific purpose. These personal easements cannot be sold or inherited. For example, utility companies often have easements to construct and/or maintain public utilities on an individual’s land. The easement is granted only to that company to provide utilities.
Types of Easements
There are several types of easements in Wisconsin.
First, express easements appear in a deed or other written document, are very detailed, and recorded.
Next, implied easements must be created by necessity. The necessity must be clear and absolute, meaning that without the easement the property owner is unable to enjoy the use of their land in a way contemplated at the time they purchased it.
Lastly, easements by prescription occur when someone uses another’s property as their own for 20 years. The use must contrast with the rights of the true property owner, be visible to the public, and uninterrupted for 20 years. If the true owner knew about the use or gave their permission, a prescriptive easement does not exist.
Resolving Your Dispute
A full title search of all ownership documents can be helpful because express easements must be recorded in writing. When express easements are at issue, parties may want to begin by simply comparing title documents.
Implied or prescriptive easements are not so easily addressed and often involve lawyers and courts to resolve.
Also, hiring a licensed land surveyor and getting a professional appraisal may be helpful. The surveyor can mark the property boundaries and clarify the land in dispute. A professional appraiser can assess the value of the entire property to determine the value of the easement and its impact on the parcel’s value.
There are many ways to approach an easement dispute. Some approaches include exchanging letters between the parties, face-to-face negotiations, meditation, or filing a lawsuit.
Murdock Law has helped many individuals with their easements disputes. If you find yourself in a property dispute, contact us at 1-844-744-7529.