“I have a residential property which is burdened with a recorded easement for “driveway and utility purposes” for the neighbors, who are otherwise landlocked behind me. My neighbors have begun building a locking auto mated gate with an alarm system and security cameras at the street- side- end of the driveway. I have asked them to stop building, but they are continuing. Instead, they openly and verbally challenge me to bring a lawsuit to try to stop them. My question is this: Can the benefactors of an express easement for only “driveway and utility purposes” build a gate on what is, save for the easement, my property? If not, can I stop them without the hassle and expense of a survey and lawsuit?”
The scope of what an easement owner is allowed to do is, unfortunately, subject to a fairly fact-specific analysis. By which I mean that the precise language of the easement grant, possibly combined with other facts (the layout of the properties, the intent of the grantor, etc.) may be considered by a finder of fact. Putting a gate on a driveway is not so far out of the ordinary uses of a “driveway” that it is clearly not allowed, but at the same time it is not always part of a driveway, so you certianly have an argument that it might not be. The unfortunate part about this is that it may come to a lawsuit before a final decision could be made. I would strongly advise that you at least consult with a local real estate attorney for an opinion on the specifics of your case. One other thing you might want to consider, which (if successful) might be a lot cheaper. Find out if your city or county requires a permit in order to build a gate like this one. If one is required, I’m guessing your neighbor didn’t get one. The building department might put a stop to this construction for you. Ordinarily, I’d caution you that this might negatively affect your relationship with your neighbor, but in this case it sounds like there isn’t much of a relationship to salvage.