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  1. #1
    kstockbridge is offline Junior Member
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    Gate across easement?

    What is the name of your state? California.

    We have "A non-exclusive easement for ingress and egress purposes over and across the following:" (neighbor's land). There is currently an unlocked gate across our easement. Our easement is the only way onto our property, which starts about 500 feet after the gate. The gate is not part of a larger fence; it is only there to controll access to the driveway. The owner from whom the easement was secured has said she would prefer the gate to remain closed. We offered to automate the gate, since we have several friends who are wheel chair bound, and they would not be able to get out of their vehicles to open the gate. She declined the offer to automate the gate because "when it breaks people will come and bother me." We have made every attempt to mitigate her concerns. I suspect the real issue is that she regrets granting the easement in the first place. (It was not granted to us, but rather to the people from whom we bought the property). I understand her right to keep access limited, but can she deny us the ability to automate the gate?

    Thanks in advance for any assistance anyone might give.
  2. #2
    BelizeBreeze is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by kstockbridge
    I understand her right to keep access limited, but can she deny us the ability to automate the gate?

    Thanks in advance for any assistance anyone might give.
    The easement is ONLY for the deed holder to which it was granted. It does NOT extend to friends.

    She can deny you the right to alter the gate in any way, but not deny you access to the easement.

    The same does not hold for your friends, regardless of their physical abilities.
  3. #3
    kstockbridge is offline Junior Member
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    Thanks for the clarification. I have found an additional description of the easement: "a non-exclusive easement and right of way for road purposes..."

    Does this change anything?
  4. #4
    BelizeBreeze is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by kstockbridge
    Thanks for the clarification. I have found an additional description of the easement: "a non-exclusive easement and right of way for road purposes..."

    Does this change anything?
    Nope
    sorry.
  5. #5
    trumptman is offline Junior Member
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    To not extend to the friends, wouldn't it have to be an exclusive easement? By being non-exclusive, doesn't that allow the friends the right to travel to her property since this is the only means of getting to her property?

    Trumptman
  6. #6
    BelizeBreeze is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by trumptman
    To not extend to the friends, wouldn't it have to be an exclusive easement? By being non-exclusive, doesn't that allow the friends the right to travel to her property since this is the only means of getting to her property?

    Trumptman
    Whether or not the easement is exclusive or non-exclusive pertains ONLY to the parties to the easement agreement.

    An exclusive easement would transfer all rights to use such only to the easement grantee, (the poster) while, with a non-exclusive easement, the owner of the underlying land retains use also of the land for it's stated purposes.

    The easement agreement does NOT include any and all others.
  7. #7
    bbear401 is offline Member
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    In some jurisdictions installation of gates have been held to be an interference with an easement, whereas, the courts found that it was unreasonable to require the easement holder to have to exit a vehicle to open a gate, especially in northern climates where there is snow and inclement weather.
    However, other courts have held if the serviant owner placed the fence across a farm road, that was not unreasonable or interference with an easement so long as it was needed to keep animals within the property and without the gate the serviant would not be able to enjoy his property.
    In California it appears that whether gates are an interference with an easement is a question of fact for the judge or jury and depends on the language creating the easement. See, the following:
    Van Klompenburg v. Berghold (2005) 126 Cal.App.4th 345OPINION
    MORRISON, J.-
    Defendants Joseph Berghold and Kay Berghold appeal from a judgment enjoining them from maintaining gates across a private roadway easement owned by plaintiffs Jon Van Klompenburg, Sarah Van Klompenburg, Barbara Due, Joseph Due and Julie Due. Defendants contend the trial court erred in failing to consider whether the gates unreasonably interfered with plaintiffs' use of the easement. We disagree and shall affirm the judgment.
    FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
    Plaintiffs and defendants each own separate parcels of real property located outside Lodi. Defendants' property abuts Highway 12. Plaintiffs' property is located approximately three-fourths of a mile off Highway 12, along the Mokelumne River. Both properties contain vineyards. Defendants' property also contains their residence and other buildings. Plaintiffs lease their property to a farmer; no one resides there. Plaintiffs' property has been in their [126 Cal.App.4th 348] family since before 1913. At one time plaintiffs' and defendants' properties were owned by plaintiff John Due's great-grandparents, Peter and Louisa Joens.
    The only permanent means of accessing plaintiffs' property is by a private roadway easement stretching across the eastern edge of defendants' property. The easement was conveyed by the Joens in an indenture dated January 9, 1913. Under the terms of the indenture, plaintiffs' predecessors in interest were granted "the right to use, travel over, upon and along, and enjoy as and for a private roadway only, for all time . . . the same to be kept open as a private roadway and wholly unobstructed, . . . [] A strip of land Fourteen (14) feet wide," running along the eastern edge of defendants' property. The Joens's intent in conveying this interest was "to furnish to the grantees and to the successors in interest . . . an unobstructed outlet . . . to [Highway 12]."
    Defendants purchased the burdened property in 1986. After moving onto the property in 2000, defendants observed trespassers and illegal dumping on their property. In late 2001 and early 2002, defendants experienced three "burglaries" at their property, resulting in substantial losses of personal property. Thereafter, in April or May 2002, defendants installed two locked gates across the easement. There had never been a gate or any other barrier on or across the easement prior to the installation of these gates. Plaintiffs demanded defendants "open" fn. 1 the gates. Defendants unlocked the gates pending the resolution of this case. Defendants offered to leave the gates "open" during periods of intense agricultural activity and to provide plaintiffs and their tenant(s) with keys to the gates.
    Plaintiffs initiated this action on November 8, 2002, seeking an order quieting title to the easement and directing defendants to "dismantle and remove" the gates.
    After a bench trial, the court issued a statement of decision, ruling in plaintiffs' favor. fn. 3 Relying on the language of the indenture, the court concluded "[d]efendants have no right to maintain closed gates on the easement" [126 Cal.App.4th 349] and enjoined defendants from "maintaining" the gates or otherwise interfering with plaintiffs' use of the easement. Defendants appeal contending the trial court erred in "fail[ing] to consider the extent to which the placing of gates constituted an unreasonable interference with plaintiffs' easement."
    DISCUSSION
    [1] "The trial court's decision to grant a permanent injunction rests within its sound discretion and will not be disturbed on appeal absent a showing of a clear abuse of discretion." []2 ( Shapiro v. San Diego City Council (2002) 96 Cal.App.4th 904 , 912.) The interpretation of an easement, which does not depend upon conflicting extrinsic evidence, is a question of law.
    [3] Here, the trial court found "the specific language of the easement ('wholly unobstructed') prevail[ed] over the general rule that the owner of the servient tenement[ fn. 4 ] may make use of the land that does not interfere unreasonably with the easement." We agree.
    [4] "It is fundamental that the language of a grant of an easement determines the scope of the easement." ( County of Sacramento v. Pacific Gas & Elec. Co. (1987) 193 Cal.App.3d 300 , 313; see also Civ. Code, 806 ["The extent of a servitude is determined by the terms of the grant, or the nature of the enjoyment by which it was acquired"].) "In construing an instrument conveying an easement, the rules applicable to the construction of deeds generally apply. If the language is clear and explicit in the conveyance, there is no occasion for the use of parol evidence to show the nature and extent of the rights acquired." ( Scruby v. Vintage Grapevine, Inc. (1995) 37 Cal.App.4th 697 , 702, citing Wilson v. Abrams (1969) 1 Cal.App.3d 1030 and County of Sacramento v. Pacific Gas & Elec. Co. , supra, 193 Cal.App.3d at p. 313.) [126 Cal.App.4th 350]
    [5] We recognize that "'[u]nless it is expressly stipulated that the way shall be an open one, or it appears from the terms of the grant or the circumstances that such was the intention, the owner of the servient estate may erect gates across the way, if they are constructed so as not unreasonably to interfere with the right of passage.'" ( McCoy v. Matich (1954) 128 Cal.App.2d 50 , 53, quoting Annot., Continuance--Withdrawal of Counsel (1976) 73 A.L.R. 779.) fn. 5 However, "[w]here an easement under a grant is specific in its terms, '[i]t is decisive of the limits of the easement' [citations]." ( Wilson v. Abrams, supra, 1 Cal.App.3d at p. 1034.)
    [6] Here, the indenture conveying the easement expressly stipulates that the roadway is to be "kept open" and "wholly unobstructed." There is nothing vague or ambiguous about this language. An "obstruction" means "[a] hindrance, obstacle, or barrier. Delay, impeding, hindering." (Black's Law Dict. (6th ed. 1990) p. 1078.) Thus, the trial court was correct in constraining its analysis to the language of the indenture in determining whether defendants were permitted to maintain closed gates across the easement. ( Wilson v. Abrams, supra, 1 Cal.App.3d at p. 1034.)
    The trial court was also correct in interpreting the indenture as prohibiting defendants from maintaining gates across the easement. Except during periods of intense activity (i.e., during the grape harvest), each time plaintiffs, their guests or their agents wish to visit plaintiffs' property, they must stop, get out of their vehicles, open at least one gate, and once through, repeat the process to close the gate. Additionally, plaintiffs' guests and agents who do not have keys will have to make arrangements to obtain them before visiting the property. There is no question that under the circumstances of this case a locked or closed gate constitutes an obstruction in that it delays, impedes and hinders plaintiffs' use and enjoyment of their easement. fn. 6 [126 Cal.App.4th 351]
    DISPOSITION
    The judgment is affirmed.
    Sims, Acting P. J., and Robie, J., concurred.
    Contrary to defendants' assertion, the indenture's specification of the roadway as "private" does not support the placement of gates across the easement. This argument ignores the indenture's other provisions, namely that the roadway is to be "kept open" and "wholly unobstructed."
    Done
    As you point out in your easement, the language of "a non-exclusive easement and right of way for road purposes..." There is a good argument that roads do not have gates and that the intent of the parties was that the easement was to be kept open as normally roads are. See:
    McCoy v. Matich, 128 Cal.App.2d 50
    [url]http://login.findlaw.com/scripts/callaw?dest=ca/calapp2d/128/50.html[/url]
    That defendant's right to maintain gates could be a debatable question is shown by the rule set forth in 73 American Law Reports 779, and quoted by the court in its opinion: "It may be laid down as a general rule that the grant of a way without reservation of the right to maintain gates does not necessarily preclude the owner of the land from doing so, and unless it is expressly stipulated that the way shall be an open one, or it appears from the terms of the grant or the circumstances that such was the intention, the owner of the servient estate may erect gates across the way, if they are constructed so as not unreasonably to interfere with the right of passage." Tiffany, The Law of Real Property, 3d ed., section 812, points out that in the absence of any express language in the grant bearing upon the question of the right to maintain gates "the courts ordinarily treat it as a question of fact whether gates ... will unreasonably interfere with the exercise of the easement ..."
    As to guests, since your easement appears to be appurtenant it would not be considered merely personal and would be and flow with the land. An appurtenant, if not specified would convey all rights associated with the dominant tenant.
  8. #8
    BelizeBreeze is offline Senior Member
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    The installation of a gate across an easement is IN ALL states and territories of the U.S., a question of fact for the court to decide.

    You could have saved all the cut and paste.
  9. #9
    shortbus is offline Member
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    Belize is not quite correct about easement law.

    Quote Originally Posted by BelizeBreeze
    The easement is ONLY for the deed holder to which it was granted. It does NOT extend to friends.
    The easement benefits a piece of property, not a specific person. True, it cannot be extended to other parcels of land. So if you as the easement holder had friends who owned property on the other side who started to use it, that would be a violation.

    However, it's totally legitimate for friends of yours to use it when visiting your house. They are visitors to the property which benefits from the easement. So yes it DOES extend to friends.

    That said, the access provided by the easement grantor only has to be reasonable. They're under no obligation to automate the gate. Remember, all you have is the right to walk through -- everything else about it is still private property. So as a previous poster said, it would be an issue of fact for a court to decide whether a gate is reasonable. I doubt you'd win, unless you yourself had a disability that made the gate an unreasonable barrier.


    Quote Originally Posted by BelizeBreeze
    Whether or not the easement is exclusive or non-exclusive pertains ONLY to the parties to the easement agreement.

    An exclusive easement would transfer all rights to use such only to the easement grantee, (the poster) while, with a non-exclusive easement, the owner of the underlying land retains use also of the land for it's stated purposes.
    Not quite. The grantor of the easement retains use of the underlying land whether it's an "exclusive" or "non-exclusive" easement. Exclusivity pertains to further easement grants. If it's an "exclusive" easement, the easement holder can sell part of his access to other people. If it's "non-exclusive", the owner of the land under the easement retains the right to do this.
  10. #10
    bbear401 is offline Member
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    I would think that given all the case law, that the poster would prevail on being allowed to automate the gate at her expense, I am not sure it would be worth the expense, as she could always meet any guests that have special needs and open the gate. However, if these gates prevent deliveries from fed ex and ups,,,Her case would be more persuasive, for removing or automating the gates.

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