My Neighbors and I Disagree as to Who Owns or is Responsible for an Access Easement, What Should we do?

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.

“Five years ago we bought 5 acres of land. We must cross 2 other landowners’ properties before reaching our own. In our plat there is a “50 foot access easement” to the overgrown field behind us. A year after we moved in, we built a fence connecting to a gate that was already in place when we bought the property. We have been contacted by one of the family members of the person who once owned both plots of land. They believe that they own the 50 foot easement even though our deed says that it is part of our property. Do they really “own” this property? They are demanding that we remove the gate and clear the entire 50 foot width even though the adjoining driveway easements are only 20 feet wide. We don’t have a problem providing the easement or moving the gate but if we do have to provide 50 feet easement, are we the ones who have to clear out the 100 foot pine trees that have been there for the last 10 to 20 years?”It’s impossible to fully answer your question without reviewing the deed and plat map, so I suggest you consult with a local attorney who can review them and give you a more definitive answer who owns what. In theory, an easement can belong to a particular person or “run with the land” (i.e., belong to whoever owns the property that benefits from it). It is almost universal that an access easement would run with the land, but you can’t be 100% sure unless you review the documents.

Question: As for maintenance responsibility, it can be divided however the parties want (again, you need to look at the documents), but if there is no other provision, it is usually divided according to use.