Termination of Easement Agreement
Ask the Real Estate Lawyer: Real Estate Law Q&A
REM #LAW 707
By Ilyce R. Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin
Summary: A homeowner shares a driveway with
the neighbor as described in the easement agreement. The neighbor has never
contributed to the maintenance costs of the driveway. Now a new owner is insisting
upon use of the driveway. Ilyce and Sam inform the reader that termination of
an easement agreement is not easy.
Q: When I purchased my property in 1990, I found out that there was an easement
on the property allowing the neighbor to share a gravel driveway.
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The agreement provided that the other property owner was to share the cost
of maintaining the driveway.
My neighbor rents his property and refused to reimburse me for the cost of
maintaining the driveway. About five years ago, I demanded payment but was never
paid. I informed the other owner of the neighboring property that if I did not
receive reimbursement, I would not allow his tenants to park on my portion of
After awhile, I replaced the gravel driveway with concrete and put up a fence
on my property bordering the neighbor’s portion of the driveway. Last
year my neighbor informed me that he was selling his property and that I had
to let the new owner use the driveway. This new neighbor is demanding use of
my property for parking. The new owner is also an investor and will be leasing
his property to renters.
I have spent thousands of dollars maintaining and renovating the property without
the assistance of the other owner and would like to know what my rights are
for having the monies for the work reimbursed if I decide to grant parking on
A: You have a great case that the neighbor may have forfeited his rights to
the easement as a result of his failure to abide by the terms of the agreement.
But there are a number of obstacles in front of you before you can claim that
the easement is null and void.
The easement that affects your property allows your neighbor to use a portion
of your land as a driveway. It also provides for your neighbor to park his cars
on a portion of your land. However, as a condition to the continued use of the
easement, your neighbor has a duty to abide by the terms of the easement.
One of those conditions is to share in the cost of the maintenance of the driveway.
You need to obtain a copy of the recorded easement to review the terms that
it contains. The easement may provide for you to give written notice of a failure
to abide by the terms of the easement before you would have the right to cancel
You need to make sure that you have abided by all of the terms specified in
the easement document before you can claim that the easement has been terminated.
Furthermore, you might have been required to take legal action to force your
neighbor to pay up or lose his rights to the easement.
Easement agreements are not easily terminated. An easement can terminate by
mutual agreement, by one party ceasing to use the easement for an extended period
of time (in some cases twenty years), or by one party’s default under
the easement terms.
You don’t have your neighbor’s agreement to terminate the easement
and the length of time that your neighbor hasn’t used the parking area
but continued to use the drive would not terminate the easement. You are left
with the issue as to whether the neighbor’s failure to live up to the
terms and conditions terminates the easement.
To effectively terminate the easement, you would have to sue the neighbor or
prevent the neighbor from continued use of the easement. In either case, the
judge presiding in your case would issue a ruling canceling the easement agreement.
Even if the easement is cancelled, you’re going to have a problem collecting
money from the neighbor for repairs going back fifteen years. You might have
needed to file suit against your neighbor to collect the money or if the easement
agreement allowed it, to file a lien against your neighbor’s property
for money that was unpaid.
Because you didn’t file suit or file a lien against the property, the
new owner may not have proper notice that money is owed to you. While the fence
would give him an indication that there is a dispute relating to the easement,
it did not give him notice that his seller owed you money. This technicality
may prove costly to you.
You need to talk to a real estate attorney who can review the easement agreement
with you and then determine how to proceed. You may want to try negotiating
a settlement with the new owner, which may prove less costly and time-consuming
than litigating this case.
Finally, if you improved the gravel driveway to a concrete driveway and the
easement agreement only provided that the neighbor would contribute towards
the upkeep of the gravel driveway, you may not be able to recover some or any
of the cost of installing it.
Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Ilyce
R. Glink’s latest book is 50 Simple Steps You Can Take To Sell Your
Home Faster and For More Money In Any Market. If you have questions for
them, write: Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, IL 60022
or contact them through Ilyce’s website www.thinkglink.com