Shared driveways are a reality for many property owners in rural Ohio. Although a driveway easement can provide benefits, like splitting maintenance and repair costs with a neighbor, it can also be a source of conflict.
Disagreements over shared driveway use can reach a stage where friendly resolution no longer seems possible. At that point, you may begin to assess your legal rights and whether you can end, or modify, the shared driveway agreement. If you find yourself in this position, Graham & Graham’s real estate lawyers are here to explain your options.
When There Is a Driveway Easement Agreement
An easement is a property interest that allows one party to use the land of another party for a specific purpose. For a driveway easement, that purpose is property access.
- The party that benefits from the easement (i.e., that gains access to their property through the easement) is known as the dominant estate.
- The party that owns the land on which the easement sits is called the servient estate.
You may have purchased property with an easement on it allowing your neighbor to travel across your property to access their property. An easement may also have been created after you purchased the property. In either case, the easement has terms and conditions attached to it, such as how long it lasts, what the dominant estate can and can’t do on the easement, and who is responsible for maintenance and repairs.
The first step in evaluating your shared driveway rights and options is determining whether there is a recorded easement. This information is available from the County Recorder’s Office. You can obtain it yourself or ask for help from an attorney.
- When there is a recorded easement, the contractual terms dictate the rights and responsibilities of each party.
- You may be able to terminate or change the agreement if the conditions that made the easement necessary have changed and it is no longer necessary. This includes the dominant estate saying or doing things that imply they don’t intend to use the easement anymore.
- If the neighbor is not upholding their end of the easement agreement, it may also be possible to file a lawsuit. The court could order your neighbor to give up the easement, force them to abide by its terms, or impose some other remedy.
The actual terms and conditions of the easement agreement will need to be reviewed to determine your options.
When There is No Shared Driveway Agreement
Shared driveways don’t always have a recorded easement. For example:
- An easement could be implied from prior and continuous use.
- An easement might be necessary because it is the only access point to the property.
Your neighbor may claim that an easement exists due to one of these reasons. However, they must satisfy the legal requirements for establishing an easement from prior use or necessity.
The court may already have stepped in and created an easement on your land. However, the terms and conditions of a court-ordered easement may be general and vague.
- It is always best to have a written agreement between you and your neighbor concerning the easement.
- The terms of an easement—including how to handle disagreements that may arise—can be negotiated and changed at any time.
- The new agreement becomes finalized once it is filed with the Recorder’s Office.
Having no agreement in place increases the chances of shared driveway problems. Verbal or “handshake” agreements can be legally binding, but they’re harder to prove.
Before attempting to negotiate an agreement with your neighbor, you might want to have an independent survey done of the property lines. An accurate survey is important when drawing up a new easement agreement.
Talk to Graham & Graham About Your Easement Rights
Your options regarding a shared driveway easement ultimately come down to the facts and details of your situation. Graham & Graham can review an easement agreement to assess your contractual rights, help you come up with a new agreement that better protects your interests, and represent you in a court action to resolve a dispute.
Attorney Ryan Linn has years of experience handling property issue cases and has argued easement cases all the way up to the Ohio Supreme Court. Send your shared driveway legal questions to Ryan at RLINN@GRAHAMLPA.COM or call 1-800-621-8585 to schedule a free consultation.