Can the City Give Me ‘Use Rights’ of the Easement to Get to My Property?

Note: The DearEsq free 'ask a lawyer' site is offered as a free informational service to the public and is not intended as legal advice. Laws vary from state-to-state, and in addition every situation is unique, and relevant facts may not be known. The answer to the question posed below may not apply to in your state or to your situation. For legal advice in your state and your situation you should consult with an attorney in your state who is familiar with the rules and laws in your state.

On the east side of my property there is a private road that an easement was given to the city and the road was given a name by the city. The private road goes to the two neighbors that are up the hill to the north of me. Both owners of the land to the north of me gave the city of Oklahoma an easement for the private road in 1992. They had to do this for one of the neighbors to be allowed to build the their house, or their land would be ‘landlocked’. The east side of my property joins a portion of the ‘private road easement’ given to the city. There is a portion of my property that can only be accessed by going down the road and we have been using the road since 1992. One of the neighbors up the hill to the north of me has decided to restrict the use of the road to just him and the other neighbor that is up the hill. I can’t get to the part of my property that has my barn and part of the fenced pasture. I was hoping that since the city of Oklahoma owns the easement and gave the private road a name, that any property that joins the city easement could be used by the owners of property that joins the easement. Since the easement was given to the City of Oklahoma, can the city give me ‘use rights’ of the easement to get to my property so I don’t have to take legal action? I really don’t have the money and if I take legal action against one of the owners I have to include both of them and I really don’t want to. I know that Oklahoma has laws that say if you have use the property for 15+ years, you can be given permanent access—but again that requires a real estate attorney and going to court, which is $$$ to make this happen.

Your situation is kind of unusual, and for that reason it’s hard to give a concrete answer other than to start asking questions of the city. To explain: Normally, an easement is “owned” by the person or people who benefit from it. So, for example, with a private road easement, I would expect that the easement would be owned by the owners of the land that the road leads to. If it were a public road, it would make sense for the city to own the easement, but it seems odd (not impossible, just odd) for the city to own an easement that benefits just two citizens. Since it’s not a typical easement, it’s hard to say what the limits of the easement are without reading it. So the first thing to do would be to get the easement document and see what it says. Second, of course, would be to ask the city what its laws/policies are regarding use of this type of easement by someone in your position: part of your property would be “landlocked” if you didn’t have access over this road. Another possible course of action would be to try to negotiate with these neighbors, either with or without the help of an attorney. Normally, my first advice would be to explore the possibility of a prescriptive easement claim (that is, an easement by use), but you already indicated that isn’t financially feasible. I should warn you, however, that any prescriptive rights you may have can be lost in the same manner: that is, if you stop using the road and don’t take any action, you can lose the right to do so later.