It is not uncommon for two neighbors with adjoining properties to enter an informal or formal agreement regarding the right of one of the neighbors to use the other’s property, and in some instances the rights are mutual or reciprocal. Some examples include when a property owner lets their neighbor extend their garden or landscaping onto their property, or when a neighbor permits the adjoining property owner to park on their property, or when an adjoining landowner allows their neighbor to access the neighbor’s property through their property.
Sometimes these agreements are informal. One example is when it is the subject of an informal conversation between neighbors. Sometimes these agreements can be implicit by one neighbor, permitting the other neighbor to use their property, although no discussion has ever taken place on the subject. And sometimes these agreements can be more formal in the form of a written agreement, or even the subject of an express grant or in a written instrument.
In California, informal agreements of the type described above can have some significant pitfalls and risks. What was once intended to be a mere neighborly accommodation, could later be determined by a Court to be the relinquishment of certain property rights to your neighbor. And even in those instances where you intended to grant easement or property rights, there could be issues that develop as to what is the scope and/or duration of the easement or rights.
And even when you enter a formal written agreement, if it is not crafted carefully, disputes can arise. One example would be as to whether or not the agreement is personal to the property owners and not intended to “carry with the land” if one or both of the properties are sold. The effect can be the unintended granting of a permanent property right, which cannot be later revoked or cancelled. If that happens, this can have a serious impact on the usability and the value of the property burdened by agreement or easement.
Consequently, it is really quite important, when entering agreements with your neighbors where you are making accommodations to temporarily permit use of your land by your neighbor, or even in instances when you want to grant a permanent property right such as an easement, that a formal agreement and/or granting instrument be carefully crafted, and in appropriate instances recorded, so there is no later ambiguity or dispute regarding the rights of each of the property owners. Preparing and entering this type of agreement can save property owners great heartache, costs, and loss of property value.
I regularly represent clients in California throughout the Bay Area including in the East Bay, in varying types of issues involving adjoining property owners, and have prepared appropriate agreements and instruments granting appropriate property rights. If you have questions, or need assistance by a California real estate attorney, involving agreements between neighboring properties, please feel free to contact me to discuss your situation or to schedule a consultation at (510) 465-0025.