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Can neighbor build garage on driveway easement?

Lawsuit brought when owners object, block construction

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In 1979, Richard Hunt signed an easement deed conveying a 6,138-square-foot easement over his property to the adjoining owners, Thomas and Barbara Young, for “parking and garage purposes.” The easement deed was recorded.

In 1998, Donna Lisa Powell and Susan Diana Schmitter bought the property formerly owned by Hunt. Five years later, Barry Blackmore bought the adjoining parcel formerly owned by the Youngs.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

Blackmore obtained a city building permit to construct a 660-square-foot, two-car garage on about 11 percent of the easement area. However, Powell and Schmitter objected.

They did not challenge Blackmore’s right to park his cars in the easement area, but they contended the easement deed did not give him the right to construct a garage for his exclusive use.

Blackmore sued his neighbors for declaratory relief, an injunction and damages.

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If you were the judge would you rule Blackmore can build a garage on his easement area?

The judge said yes!

The easement deed clearly said it was for “parking and garage purposes,” the judge began. The grant was from the servient tenement owners (now Powell and Schmitter) to the dominant tenement owner (now Blackmore), he continued.

Because the easement was granted to Blackmore and used the word “garage,” it is reasonable that he can build a garage on the easement for his exclusive use, the judge emphasized. If Blackmore was not entitled to exclusive use of the garage, use by both property owners could create potential problems such as maintenance, security and allocation of parking spaces, the judge ruled.

Based on the 2007 California Court of Appeal decision in Blackmore v. Powell, 59 Cal.Rptr.3d 527.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center
).