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Q: Ingress & Egress Easement Rights in California ( Answered,   2 Comments )
Subject: Ingress & Egress Easement Rights in California
Category: Family and Home > Home
Asked by: willows-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 23 Jun 2006 22:48 PDT
Expires: 23 Jul 2006 22:48 PDT
Question ID: 740678
My neighbors have "an easement for ingress and egress purposes" over
my back drive.  They do not need that drive to enter their property.
It was originally intended for a horse to be taken out of their back
yard and walked up my drive and out onto the street.   However they
don't have horses. In 8 years they have used it once or twice a year
at most to clear larger than normal garden cuttings/tree branches from
their back yard.  The problem is, a vehicle cannot enter my drive and
make a turn into their gate so they end up parking on my drive, then
hauling all their "trash" onto my property and loading the vehicle
there.  One weekend a large shredder was left on the drive for 2 days
and the shredding was done on my drive.   I am concerned for insurance
purposes, should anyone get injured while working on my property
loading for them.  Also I feel that if they cannot get a vehicle into
their gate, that they are abusing their ingress and egress rights.  Am
I correct?
The gate was locked by my previous owners for many years, so when I
purchased the property, I continued to keep the gate locked and if the
neighbors needed to use the "easement", they would call the day before
and I would make sure the gate was left unlocked for them.  That's how
it has worked for 8 years.
However, now they are demanding a key for the gate.  Nothing has
changed regarding them acquiring a horse, or changing the location of
their gate to enable a vehicle to enter their back property.
They feel they should not have to call me to open the gate, but
because all vehicles to date park on my drive, I do like to know who
is entering and when.
The property is in California.
My back drive is 16 feet wide x 105 long, sandwiched between two
neighbors (my property was sub-divided back in the 50's).  Only one
neighbor has the ingress and egress rights.  Their gate is at the
bottom of the drive closest to the rest of my property.
My drive has its own street address and my water meter is outside that gate. 
I need to know what exactly ingress and egress rights are?  Does this
entitle my neighbors to use my property for loading and unloading
purposes, or does it only mean "cutting thru" my property to get into
theirs.  And if a vehicle cannot possibly get into their gate from my
drive, should a vehicle be allowed on my drive in the first place?
Subject: Re: Ingress & Egress Easement Rights in California
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 24 Jun 2006 04:59 PDT

Thanks for bringing your question to Google Answers.

Please take note of the disclaimer at the bottom of the page.  I am
not a lawyer, and Google Answers is no substitute for professional
legal advice.  Please take everything here with the appropriate grains
of salt.

There are a few guiding principles used for interpreting easements,
one of which can be dubbed 'reasonableness' -- an easement can be used
in any reasonable way consistent with its intent (in your case, for
ingress/egress), as long as it doesn't create any unreasonable
hardships for the primary property owner.

It's amazing, though, how often neighbors will disagree with what is
or isn't reasonable.  And in cases of disagreement, it can be very
hard to get clarity on what is or isn't permitted under an easement
until the matter is actually reviewed and decided by a court.

Hopefully, you will be able to resolve things with your neighbor
without the need to head for court.  But if it should come to that,
there's really no way of knowing how the courts would respond...each
situation is unique, and the outcomes are adjudicated on a case by
case basis.  For instance, there is no hard and fast definition of
'ingress and egress', nor any guidelines that I know of to make clear
when one has exceeded simple ingress/egress by, e.g., parking on an

Still, it can be helpful understand some of the principles the courts
in California use for guidance.

Reasonable/unreasonable use is one of the principles.

Another is 'necessity'.  If a particular use is necessary for your
neighbor's 'enjoyment' (as the lawyers say) of his property, then
that's a strong factor in his favor that would be weighed by the
courts.  In the situation you described, your neighbor may be able to
make a case based on necessity, since the large machines apparently
cannot fit through his gate (on the other hand, though, gates are
relatively easy to move or re-configure).

The history of the easement is also taken into account, though not in
an especially rigid way.  Courts have consistently acknowledged that
changes in circumstances -- new subdivisions, new technologies (cars
substituting for horses, for instance), new ownerships, and so on --
can be legitimate reasons for changing the existing practices
regarding an easement.  In your case, the history of rather limited
use of the driveway, and the convention of asking for the key for the
gate, would be taken into account.

And of course, the actual intent and language of the easement is
paramount...courts would not ordinarily take kindly if an easement for
ingress and egress is used, instead, to build extension to one's
house!  If an easement specifically says ingress and egress 'for
horses', then its use for other purposes would be harder to justify.

A last point to note is that easement rights are generally limited to
the easement property itself.  The right to use your driveway does
not, as a rule, convey a right to also use your off-driveway property
as a parking area, for instance.  Courts are generally reluctant to
extend the scope of an easement into the off-easement property, but
they may, in some circumstances.

Again, it is to be hoped that you and your neighbor can avoid going to
court, as it is a time-consuming and aggravating process, and often
produces outcomes no one is happy with!

What to do, then?

It seems to me that your neighbor has made a request that might indeed
be deemed 'reasonable' were the courts to consider it...a request for
a key to the access gate.  Your neighbor also can make an argument for
necessity of use, as I mentioned already.

On the other hand, your own concerns are also reasonable, as is your
desire for clarity regarding the situation.

In particular, the matter of whether ingress/egress (and the history
of use for horses) means they shouldn't be parking on the drive. 
There is nothing in existing California case law that I know of that
addresses this specific point.

This may be an opportune moment to clarify the easement without
involving the courts.

Consider sending your neighbor a letter offering to provide a key to
the gate, but at the same time, use the letter to spell out your
understanding of the use and limits of the easement.

For instance, the letter, in a polite but firm way, could say things
along the lines of:

--vehicles should not be parked on the drive in a manner that blocks
your water meter (or any other condition you care to specify)

--the drive is for ingress/egress and not primarily for parking. 
Vehicles should not be parked overnight (or whatever suits you) unless
arrangements are made in advance.

--advance notice should be given for any use of the drive by heavy
vehicles (trucks, construction equipment, etc).

--acceptance of a key to the gate is taken as agreement with this
understanding of the easement

These are simply suggestions, of course,  Only you know the details of
your situation, and can craft the best language for your purposes.

Bear in mind, that whatever conditions you write down may, somewhere
down the road (pardon the phrase!), be turned around to apply to you. 
For instance, if there is a parking restriction in the letter that
your neighbor agrees to, he may, in the future, object to you parking
on the drive, and point to the letter as his rationale.

And again, you should certainly consult with a legal professional
before deciding on any course of action in this matter.

It may help to become a bit more familiar with easements overall. 
There is a good, general backgrounder at the always-useful FindLaw
Easements:  The Basics

Make sure to click through to all five pages of the article.  

I trust this information is helpful to you, and fully answers your question.

However, if there's anything else I can do for you, just let me know
by posting a Request for Clarification, and I'm at your service.

Best of luck...


search strategy -- Used knowledge of easements in CA, along with
bookmarked sites on easement disputes.

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 24 Jun 2006 05:42 PDT
By the way, here's a link to a case that specifically deals with an
ingress/egress easement where the courts concluded that it also
implies a right to 'transitory parking':
Flagg v Corcoran

It's not easy to read through it all, but bottom line, is that the
court imposed restrictions and obligations on both parties in the

Again...I suggest you stay out of court, if at all possible!
Subject: Re: Ingress & Egress Easement Rights in California
From: markvmd-ga on 24 Jun 2006 05:19 PDT
Add indemnification for injuries to your letter. Get an attorney to write it.
Subject: Re: Ingress & Egress Easement Rights in California
From: roxrox-ga on 24 Jun 2006 14:41 PDT
Reading as an outsider, my opinion is that your neighbors are using
their rightfull easment correctly. In other words, I don't think they
are being out of line with what they are doing. Perhaps you could
approach them to buy out theri easement. You could for example pay to
put in a new wide gate at the front of thier house, as wide as your
gate which they currently have the right to use.

I do think the neighbors are being reasonable in asking for a key,
what if you are not home and they need to use the driveway? We have
easment rights on a neighbors property so I am perhaps writing from a
different perspective.

If you ahve plenty of land that is adjacent to thier property you
mihgt consider swapping them some land in favor of them giving up the
easement. Since it appears to me (again as an outsider) that they are
being quite reasonable then your best option is to buy out their
rightful easement.

It is always wise to get along with your neighbors. Really try to get
along with them and ask yourself how often they really are using the
easeent and if you are being overly sensitive. How often really are
they going to bring in a big chipper like that? Probably it was a one
time or once in every 5 year event. Not worth you getting excited
over. If it is bothering you you will be oney ahead by buying tham out
rather than hiring a lawyer and going to court.

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