The City Caused Damage to my Property. What Should I do?

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“The city has decided to clean out a old ditch that has not been used in 30 years. My property line includes the ditch in which they are cleaning. The city then came into my property for about 27 feet and cleaned out all the trees and shrubs. A total of about 35 in all. I asked the city employees about the cleaning on my property and they told me they could because of an easement. I went to the court records and there is no easement on the deed. All the other property lines were not damaged. The city only went through mine by mistake. What should my next move be? I have been told the city needs to reimburse me for the property destroyed. We used the trees and shrubs to divide our yard form the grocery stores and other shops so no one would use my property as a shortcut to the stores. This is an older housing area and not a new development area. I like the privacy we had before the city removed it. Now the lights are bright in our back yard. Thank you.”

[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.]

First, I would talk to someone at the city about whether they in fact have an easement across your property. They might, even if it isn’t mentioned on your deed, and if they do, then what they did may be within their rights as easement holders. It’s also possible that they have an unrecorded easement, created by virtue of use. This sort of easement is referred to as “prescriptive.”Unfortunately, the rules for prescriptive easements vary from state to state, and even within a state can be very different for a public entity(like a city), so it’s hard to say whether that would apply to your situation. However, if the city claims that they have one, you shouldn’t be surprised. If they don’t have an easement, talking to the city might result in an offer of some sort of compensation. Failing that, you may have to sue. You should also act promptly. In many places, if you can sue the city at all, there are extremely short deadlines to do so.

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Author: House Attorney

A house attorney has answered this question.