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Implied Easements Under Rhode Island Real Estate Law

When large tracts of property in New England are broken up and subdivided into smaller lots for development, disputes can arise between the new owners of the properties over rights-of-way and access to public roads. In a recent state appellate case decided by the New Hampshire Supreme Court, a defendant was estopped, or forbidden, from denying a plaintiff’s claim of an implied easement to use a private road owned by the defendant that went along the plaintiff’s property.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff purchased three lots which had been part of a larger tract of land that was divided into smaller lots by the original owner in 1968. The deed which conveyed the lots after the division noted a private roadway formed part of the border of the smaller lots. The defendant later purchased the land adjacent to the plaintiff’s property which included the private road that was noted as a border to the plaintiff’s land in the earlier deed. Relying on established state law, the plaintiff continued to assert his right of way to use the private road to access his property. Because the plaintiff’s land also directly bordered on a public road, the defendant restricted the plaintiff’s access to the private road and denied the plaintiff any use of the right of way.

The plaintiff filed an action in state court against the defendant, seeking a declaration from the court that the plaintiff did have an implied easement to use the private roadway, and that such easement was not affected by the existence of alternate access to the public road from the plaintiff’s property. The district court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, finding that under established state law, if a deed states the border of conveyed property is along a private road, that there is an implied easement from the new owner to use the road to access the property. The court further noted that the law clearly stated that the easement is not affected by alternate access to a public road from another part of the property.

After the district court ruled in favor of the plaintiff and denied the defendant’s request to bring additional arguments and evidence in on a motion to reconsider, the defendant appealed the case to the state supreme court, which found no error in the lower court’s rulings. The court noted that the defendant should have made all of the relevant arguments before the court ruled on the plaintiff’s motion, and that the new arguments were not properly before the court. As a result of these rulings, the defendant may no longer restrict the plaintiff’s use of the private road to access his property.

Obtain Advice from a Qualified Rhode Island Real Estate Attorney

If you are involved in a dispute with a neighboring property owner over an access or easement issue, the law may not be as clear-cut as it seems, and having a skilled Rhode Island real estate attorney to advise and represent you throughout the dispute can greatly increase your chances of a desirable outcome. The experienced Rhode Island real estate attorneys at Bilodeau Capalbo, LLC, understand complicated real estate and property issues, and will assist you in resolving any dispute you may have. Contact us for a consultation to discuss your case by calling our offices at 401-300-4055.

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