When an Easement Holder Tells You to Get Out of the Way – Understanding the Landowner’s Right to Use His Own Land

By Robert Nislick

You are a Massachusetts landowner. Your neighbor has an easement to use your land.  You want to use your own land too.  Your neighbor sues you in Land Court or Superior Court. She seeks a declaratory judgment and an injunction to prevent you from using the land subject to the easement. She claims that she has a right to use your land, so you cannot. It is quite possible that your nasty neighbor should lose. Massachusetts courts interpret broadly one’s right to use and enjoy his or her land.[1] Generally, the servient owner may make any use of his land that is not inconsistent with the easement and that does not materially interfere with the easement’s use.[2] A servient owner retains the use of his land for all purposes except such as are inconsistent with the right granted to the dominant owner.[3] It is a long-established rule in the Commonwealth that the owner of real estate may make any and all beneficial uses of his property consistent with the easement.[4] Although servient owners enjoy rights to use their land, they may not engage in activities that are inconsistent or materially interfere with a dominant owner’s easement.[5] The general rule in determining whether a given proposed use falls within the activities forbidden to the owner of a servient estate is that such an owner is entitled to make such use of the estate as is consistent with the easement[6], or for all purposes which are not inconsistent with the easement[7], or which do not materially interfere with its use.[8] The owner of the servient estate may not use the property subject to the easement in a way that would lead to a material increase in the cost or inconvenience to the easement holder’s exercise of his rights.[9] Easement disputes can be extraordinarily complex and the stakes are high.  Attorney Robert Nislick is an experienced litigator of easement disputes, and formerly served as a law clerk at the Massachusetts Land Court.  If you are having an easement dispute with your neighbor, contact Robert Nislick today.


[1]Rattigan v. Wile, 445 Mass. 850, 858 (2006). [2] Sullivan v. Dart, 78 Mass. App. Ct. 1120, 2011 WL 182058, 2 n.7 (2011). [3] Patterson v. Paul, 448 Mass. 658, 666 (2007). [4] M.P.M. Builders, LLC v. Dwyer, 442 Mass. 87, 91 (2004). [5] World Species List-Natural Features Registry Institute v. Reading, 75 Mass. App. Ct. 302, 310 (2009). [6] J. S. Lang Engr. Co. v. Wilkins Potter Press, 246 Mass. 529 (1923). [7] Ampagoomian v. Atamian, 323 Mass. 319, 322 (1948). [8] Merry v. Priest, 276 Mass. 592, 600 (1931). [9] Texon, Inc. v. Holyoke Mach. Co., 8 Mass. App. Ct. 363, 365 (1979).

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