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  1. #1

    Can the city add an easement to my property without my permission?

    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? Minnesota

    I Bought a 2.64 acre property with house in the city limits of Saint Paul MN in August of 2008. The house had been vacant in foreclosure since 2007 and I purchased directly from a bank. I had a proper title search and there were no apparent problems.

    In June of 2009, bulldozers showed up to the bottom of my property and proceeded to knock down trees. I inquired about what was going on and they said it was a watershed project and that they had authorization from the city and county to clear a gully and that there was an extensive right-of-way for this purpose.

    It did not show up on my title that there was any easement, but a bunch of google searching and I found the minutes of the city council and county watershed going back about five years discussing this project. Strangely, there was the final City council authorization of an easement and go ahead for project in March of 2009, 7 months after I took ownership.

    I called the city council woman's office to ask why they had not consulted me. She claimed that they had permission from the foreclosed owner in June of 2007 in a signed document, even though the city never officially approved it and filed it for nearly 2 years.

    My questions: can an owner's statement from 2 years ago be held as valid when they lost ownership to the bank, and then the property was sold to a new owner? Don't you have to file county property records for this to be valid? Does the city have a legal standing to override the current owner's wishes based on previous owners intentions if they didn't complete the necessary paperwork? Do I have any recourse that my property was devalued without compensation (this is a violation of the 5th amendment and Minnesota constitution).

    Finally, do I take this to an appellate court if I never had an initial hearing or what am I supposed to do? I understand that fighting a watershed now is a lost cause, but aren't they required to compensate me for taking away the use of my land?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    2.64 acre Ill guess your down in the Highwood ave- lower Afton east of S McKnight area???. ( Yes huge lots very very exurban feel to the area ) They may have gotten what ever signatures they needed before it went to foreclosure but this time around I suspect if you challenge them in court you may not win , this may well be one of them things where they have deeper pockets than every one else, and would be able to satisfy a court for the need to do this ( especially if its a flood control issue ?? not much different than the number of homes in the highwood ave area that do not have city water - sewer sooner or later if the city has not completed adding water sewer , they will and eventually they will force hookups ) Your free to consult with a real estate atty or since your in the cities its possible to find attys who have experiance suing cities , no way to know if you would win since I can see city maybe delaying any further work long enough to take civil action related to eminent domain and win it anyway ( after youve gone thru a ton of money in legal bills) How many other properties near you have had this work, can you get your city council person to help you learn if any compensation was offered? Have you asked any of your nieghbors if same type of work occured on their lots if they were compensated ?

  3. #3
    Yes, you know exactly where I am.

    I am not angry at them improving water flow, just the fact that the property was a different value if I don't have use rights to a big chunk of it.

    Yes, I could check the other land owners and see if they were compensated.


  4. #4
    The city is required to record any easement they obtained in order for it to be valid. It seems that it was not recorded properly (if at all) so your title search did not find it. You could have a good claim as a result that the easement is not valid against you, although you would have to fight it in court. A signed document from the previous owner doesn't matter if it's not recorded. What if the signed document said that they had sold the entire property outright to the city? Then you would both be claiming rights to the property--this is no different and has to be sorted out by real estate attorneys.

    Now, the city could create an easement by eminent domain for these purposes, even if you did not agree to it. However, they would owe you compensation if they did that.

    In either case you should consult with (a) your title insurer and (b) a real estate lawyer. Given the circumstances it seems like you could have a decent claim for some compensation from the city based on the fair market value of the portion of property they turned into an easement.

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