Nicki & Karen

Can a Property Owner Block an Easement in California?

Nicki and Karen » May 20, 2024

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If you’re in the process of buying a home, your real estate agent might inform you of several easements the property has. While nearly every property has at least one easement, you may not want to buy a home that contains a few of them. The purpose of an easement is to allow entities or individuals to use or access another person’s property in some manner.

In California, homeowners have some easement rights. All easements are governed by common and statutory law. While most easements involve providing someone else with the ability to use a portion of your land, they can also create problems and disputes. For example, an easement might prevent you from building a structure that would effectively obstruct a neighbor’s view. 

There are also many different types of easements, all of which you should understand before buying a home in California. If one or more easements are tied to your property, you may be able to get rid of them. This guide provides the answer to “Can a property owner block an easement?”. 

Types of Easements in California Real Estate

There are numerous ways that easements can be created when it comes to California real estate, which include everything from government action to an express grant. For example, an express grant takes place when the current property owner willingly provides an easement to another person or entity via a written document. This document is often held at the county recorder’s office. An example of an express easement is when a homeowner allows their neighbor to use part of their land as a driveway.

An implied easement occurs when the actions or circumstances of all parties involved indicate that an easement is in place. Even if a written agreement hasn’t been made, an implied easement can be created. Let’s say that a landowner sells part of their property. If this portion of the property can only be accessed by walking or driving through the seller’s remaining land, an implied easement can be made. 

A prescriptive easement is obtained through open, hostile, and continuous use of another person’s land for at least five years. Keep in mind that the statutory period that would result in a prescriptive easement differs with each state. While it’s five years in California, it’s usually 10 years in New York. This easement can be created even if the owner doesn’t give permission. An example of a prescriptive easement is when someone walks across a neighbor’s property openly for five years. In this scenario, they could obtain a prescriptive easement. 

An easement of necessity can be made when a property owner transfers or sells part of their land but doesn’t provide the new owner with reasonable access to it. This is similar to an implied easement

It’s also possible for an easement in gross to be created. While most easements are tied to a piece of property, this type of easement is meant to benefit a specific entity or person. This is among the most common easements that properties come with. For example, a utility provider can claim an easement in gross if they need to maintain power lines or install new ones on a property. This easement remains in place no matter who owns the land. 

The final type of easement that might apply to your land is a preservation one. The purpose of a preservation easement is to protect the property’s historic or natural features. It’s usually provided to nonprofit organizations or government agencies. For example, a property owner might provide a conservation organization with a preservation easement to make sure that there’s no future development on the land.

It’s important to know about the different types of easements if you want to fully understand your property rights. While easements provide entities or people with specific rights, they don’t involve transferring ownership of land. Easements can include everything from utilities to driveways and pathways.

When someone attempts to use an easement, they must do so in a manner that adheres to the specific guidelines. For example, if a homeowner provides their neighbor with a portion of their land to use as a driveway, they can’t take more of the owner’s property to create a larger one. If a person or entity uses the easement in a way that isn’t allowed, legal action could be taken against them. 

Keep in mind that the entity that benefits from an easement is referred to as the dominant tenement. This entity can maintain and enforce the easement. In comparison, the servient tenement owner cannot directly interfere with the rights that the easement has granted. 

Ownership and Responsibility in Easement Maintenance

Each state in the country has comprehensive laws on how to create and maintain an easement. As touched upon previously, the person who benefits from the easement is responsible for maintaining it. It’s possible to negotiate an easement via a contract or written agreement. If written consent hasn’t been given, the person who’s attempting to claim an easement must prove that they’ve continuously used the property over an extended period of time

There are several legal actions easement owners can take if the homeowner is attempting to block access to the property they have a right to. In most cases, a lawsuit will need to be filed. Speak with a lawyer to make sure you understand your legal rights if you own an easement. 

If you believe that you have an easement that gives you an implied right of entry for a piece of land, you may need to show proof. For example, if you own an easement on a person’s land that you can only access by walking across another portion of their property, you should have an implied easement. If the property owner attempts to block this easement, you must show the court that there’s no other way to access it.

Keep in mind, however, that an easement can be illegal. A property owner can also attempt to block an easement if they feel like it encroaches upon their rights as the landowner. 

Let’s say a neighbor claims a prescriptive easement because they’ve used a portion of your property for an extended period. If you know that they’ve only used your property for three or four years, you could block the easement altogether. The burden of proof is on the person claiming that they have an easement. They must prove that they’ve used your land for at least five years.

It’s highly recommended that you hire an attorney to avoid easement issues with your property. They’ll be able to inform you of your legal rights and help you identify the best course of action. However, an easement dispute can cause problems when you’re trying to sell a property. Disputes might arise from disagreements about the extent of the easement or the maintenance obligations

If an easement isn’t properly recorded, it may not be apparent to someone who’s buying your home. When an easement is hidden from view, it could lead to legal disputes and problems that negatively impact the property’s value.

Resolving a dispute over an easement may require legal action in the form of a court intervention. However, most easements are meant to last indefinitely. If you need to end an easement, there are several options available to you, which include the following:

  • Ending out of necessity: If an easement has been deemed necessary in the past but is no longer needed, it could be revoked.
  • Merger: If the dominant estate acquires the title to the servient estate, there’s no longer a need for the easement.
  • Express agreement: If you gave someone an easement in the past, it’s possible to end it by negotiating with its owner. The agreement must be in writing.
  • Abandonment: If the entity or person who owns the easement does something that takes away their ability to use the land, the easement could be ended.

When an easement is effectively abandoned, the owner can no longer use it. However, they’ll still have access to the easement if they only abandon it briefly. A real estate lawyer is required when ending an easement


Whether you already own a home or are getting ready to buy one, the property could consist of several easements. An easement provides another person or entity with the ability to use a portion of the land for their benefit. These arrangements don’t end just because the landowner sells their property. 

If you want to block an easement in California, you must make an agreement with its owner. Otherwise, you could face legal consequences. To properly navigate easement disputes, make sure you seek legal consultation. If you own a property, it’s important that you understand easement rights and what they mean for California residents.

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