Legal Question in Real Estate Law in California

My question is regarding shared easements. Specifically who is responsible to pay for improving/changing the easement as opposed to maintaining the existing easement. I have a deeded easement. I share this easement with 3 other people. One of my neighbors is leasing his property to a company for business purposes. The easement is already in compliance for residential use but In order for him to get the business permit the county says that the easement needs to be improved to comply with the standards for a business property. He says he is going to tear down the current bridge, build a new one and make the needed improvements and that we each have to pay 1/3 of the cost. Can he make those changes If the one or both of the other owners don’t want or need the change and if so can he force us to pay for any part of it?

Asked on 4/03/21, 10:08 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Timothy McCormick Haapala, Thompson & Abern, LLP

If it went to court, the answer would depend on the specific granting language of each of the easements in the deeds. In general, however, the beneficiaries of an easement are obligated to share the cost of maintaining the easement, not improving or expanding it, and only to the extent of their actual easement. For example I know of a subdivided property with an easement for a driveway that serves five homes. It initially crosses two properties that have public street frontage (it straddles the property line). It reaches the first benefitted property's personal driveway about 50' in. All five benefited parcels owe equal shares for that stretch. About 20' farther, it reaches the second benefited parcel. That owner and the three farther up the drive owe for maintenance of that stretch. Next one is another 10' in, cost shared three ways. The last stretch reaches the final two parcels ending in a cul de sac. That last stretch and cul de sac is the responsibility of the final two owners. If the two farthest in decided they want to have curbs, sidewalks and drainage, they are free to install it, but only they pay for it. If only one want's it, they can do it entirely at their own expense. This is because the easement deeds are silent as to cost sharing, though. Meaning it defaults to what I described. Often the granting documents will also provide for more specific rights and responsibilities.

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Answered on 4/06/21, 8:09 pm

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