Does the Easement Holder Have to Pay Repair Costs?

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I co-own a shared driveway in which a separate easement holder uses to access his property by automobile. Historically, the three of us have shared repair and maintenance costs equally, i.e. 1/3rd each. My co-owner and I are replacing the driveway, due to extensive damage over many years, and the easement holder is refusing to pay for his 1/3rd share of the replacement cost because he believes the project cost is unreasonable. If the easement holder refuses to pay his 1/3rd share, in whole or in part, can he be held liable for trespass for breaching California Civil Code Section 845, which obligates him to contribute to the repair of the driveway? If so, would the damages simply be the 1/3rd share of the replacement cost he is liable for?

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

The statute you are referring to is the “default” rule for how the maintenance and repair of an easement is shared between co-owners. So the action wouldn’t be one for trespass (that is, he’s still allowed to use the easement), just for his share of the cost.

Whether the division of cost is appropriate, whether the cost of the work you did was reasonable, and whether the work was maintenance or improvement would all be issues that might affect the amount he owes. Before you run to court, I would try to find out what he believes was reasonably necessary, and what he thinks the reasonable cost of his share would be. Depending on how far that is from what you think he owes, you may want to just bite the bullet, accept it, and make sure to get his pre-approval next time you do any work.

If you can’t get to an agreement, keep in mind that this action can be brought in small claims court, if the amount you’re claiming is under the limit there.

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Author: House Attorney