Thanks for bringing your question to Google Answers.
Before answering, though, I want to point out the caveat at the bottom
of this page...I am not a lawyer, and Google Answers in not a
substitute for professional legal advice. Please bear this in mind as
you consider your options in this situation.
Easement disputes tend to be highly individualistic, as each case has
a unique history of practice, as well as a history of intent as to the
purpose of the easement. And of course, the language of the easement
itself is of paramount importance in deciding what is or isn't
The case that seems to come closest to your situation -- and which is
often cited as precedent in easement matters -- is a 1965 case from
the California Court of Appeals:
Heath v. Kettenhofen
236 CA2d 197
The dispute in this case was largely over a matter of using the
easement as a parking place, although there was also a dispute over
construction of a fence.
The outcome of the case may not be to your liking, as the courts
didn't find for one party or the other, but essentially 'split the
difference' between the two parties, allocating each of them a fixed
and limited area for parking.
However, the importance of this case is not only the outcome, but the
detailed discussion of easement rights and responsibilities. These
discussions have had a big influence on how subsequent courts in
California have adjudicated easement disputes.
If you were to take your current case to court, they may well find in
your favor. Or they may not. There's really no way of knowing the
outcome in advance. However, the language of Heath v. Kettenhofen
will likely play a large role in their deliberations.
Here are some of the key passages regarding the parking issue:
...The immediate cause of the litigation between the parties arose
first from a dispute over the use of the easement for the parking of
vehicles, and from defendant's insistence upon the right to run a
fence along the common boundary line, fencing off the easement and
restricting plaintiffs' access to it...
...defendant had parked vehicles in the easement for all day storage,
and that such parking interfered with the rights of plaintiffs to the
use of the easement.
...The judgment...declared that the rights of the parties in the
easement for roadway purposes were "coexisting and equal" and that
each party was entitled to use the easement for such transitory
parking as would not interfere with the rights of the other party...
...In an effort to regulate the use of the easement by each party the
judgment further provided that plaintiffs should have exclusive
control of a strip 10 feet in width along the northerly side of the
easement "for the purposes of access to parking places now provided on
their property", and for such transitory parking as might remain
available for plaintiffs and plaintiffs' invitees. Similarly, the
defendant was given exclusive control of a strip 10 feet in width
along the southerly side of the easement for parking purposes. The
defendant was given the further right to erect a barrier "no closer
than 30 feet from the northerly line of the easement and parallel
thereto ..." for the purpose of delineating his parking area.
...On appeal, plaintiffs contend only that they have a right to use
the easement to its entire width, and that it was error to give
defendant exclusive control of a 10-foot strip running the length of
the easement, and to permit the defendant to erect a barricade to mark
off his parking area...
...Plaintiffs attack the judgment on two grounds. They first contend
they have an absolute right to use the easement to the full extent of
its width, free of any interference by the owner of the servient
estate. Secondly, plaintiffs contend that it was error for the court
to allow defendant the exclusive use of a 10-foot strip running the
full length of the easement, and to permit the erection of a barricade
to mark off a part of this area. We consider these contentions
together, because the answer given is applicable to each...
...plaintiffs have been the grantees and dominant tenants of an
easement over said forty foot strip by virtue of a grant... and that
said grant of easement reads as follows: '... for roadway and
utilities over a strip of land forty feet wide. ...' " This finding
effectively disposes of the issues raised in defendant's action for
reformation because it resolves the conflicts in the evidence in favor
of the plaintiffs, and validates their claim to a 40-foot easement for
roadway and utility purposes...
...the evidence indicates that the parties did not have the same
understanding with respect to the extent of the easement. Thus, if
mistake was present, it was unilateral and not mutual. It is
elementary that a court of equity has no power to make a new contract
for the parties, nor can it reform an instrument according to the
terms in which one of the parties understood it, unless it also
appears that the other party had the same understanding...
...the court reserved jurisdiction for the purpose of altering its
decree if necessary to settle further disputes or in the event of
That last little excerpt is worth taking note of. The court is
saying, in effect, that if the situation were to change in the future
(e.g., a new use for the easement arose, or a new dispute), then the
parties could revisit the decision of the court and ask for an updated
decision to take into consideration the new circumstances.
One last note. The party that drafted the actual easement certainly
plays a role in all this, and may possibly bear some liability if the
easement was not drafted to professional standards. You may want to
explore this aspect of the situation as well.
I trust the information above information fully answers your question.
However, please don't rate this answer until you have everything you
need. If there's anything more I can do for you, just post a Request
for Clarification, and I'm happy to assist you further.
Here's hoping for a smooth resolution of your situation...
search strategy -- searched Google and Lexis-Nexis for legal cases in
California pertaining to [ easements parking ]
Request for Answer Clarification by
23 Jun 2006 19:33 PDT
Okay, here is the exact verbiage of the Easement Grant deed: An
easement for road and utility purposes over, under, along and across
the southerly 20.00 feet of the following described property. Then
the property description, then the last paragraph that reads: 'Said
easement is hereby declared to be appurtenant to and for the use and
benefit of that property as referenced by grant deed (their grant deed
#) recorded Nov.1, 1999. The moved into their house on that date.
The easement grant deed was done on 4/5/2002 about a week before we
put the downpayment on our house. The builder and engineer have both
stated it is an egress/ingress easement only, and not stated for
parking. The neighbors chose to use their garage as a game room and
driveway for a 28' boat and a trampoline. They are also complaining
about us parking in our driveway so that they can't get their boat
onto the easement. They feel they can use essentially four parking
spaces on the side of our house for their cars, friends, whatever, and
they have used an additional space right in front of our house no
where near the easement when the mood strikes them. Give an inch,
they take a mile. The verbiage does say 'over, under, along, and
across', but the word ON is absent! This is their only access to the
public road, but originally wasn't required when lot was split, as
there was another county road that abutted their property. The
builder didn't use that one, as he would have had to grade it, as it
is up a steep hill. Thank you,
Clarification of Answer by
23 Jun 2006 20:08 PDT
Thanks for posting that additional information.
It doesn't really change things, though. There's still no way of
knowing how a court would respond until and unless you were to
actually take the case to court. My guess, though, is that the
outcome would be along the lines of the case I cited originally -- a
carefully defined restriction allowing both of you a limited amount of
It does sound though as if your neighbors have adopted an unecessarily
agressive and abusive stance, though. For what it's worth, you should
carefully document the situation and the number of times you are
inconvenienced...pictures are always useful. In particular, if they
are parking not in the easement itself, but on your property, that
should be documented as well.
If you truly think the situation is past the point where you can work
things out directly with the neighbors, then your options, it seems to
me, are to either live with the situation (and hope they move!), or
get in touch with a lawyer for professional advice, and for possible
I wish I could offer you something more concrete, but the simple fact
is, the outcome of a dispute like this can't be known until the courts
come to a judgement on the matter.
Do be aware, however, that time is not on your side. The longer you
tolerate a situation, the more the other guy can argue that this is
the way things have been for a long time...an argument that carries
weight before the courts.
All the best,