If you’ve been sharing a driveway with your neighbor for years courtesy of an easement on your property, there could come a time when the arrangement no longer works for you. Maybe you’ve acquired more vehicles or it could be that it’s become problematic for the neighbor to use the driveway. Whatever your reason for reconsidering an easement, it might be possible to legally terminate it. The legitimate reasons are limited, but the terms of the original agreement may be helpful.
Review your copy of the recorded easement. The terms that were set down when the agreement was made could play in your favor. For instance, if the agreement states that your neighbor must share in maintaining the driveway and he has failed to do so, you could be within your rights to provide a written notice to your neighbor of your intent to cancel the agreement, citing failure to abide by the easement’s terms. Rather than acting as your own legal counsel, it’s best to have an attorney take a look at the agreement, too. A real estate lawyer would know the laws in your state and would be able to apply them to the easement agreement to tell you the best way to go about terminating it.
If you buy your neighbor’s property, the easement essentially dissolves. That type of termination is also known as termination by merger. Abandonment is also grounds for terminating an easement, and is determined by the easement remaining unused by the neighbor for at least five years and he indicates that he no longer wishes to use it. The amount of time required to show abandonment can differ from state to state, so ask your lawyer what length of time applies in your state. Abandonment can overlap with another reason to terminate: when the easement is no longer being used for its original purpose, such as if the neighbor constructs a driveway on his own property and no longer requires the use of the easement.
If your neighbor decides to release his interest in the easement, whether out of the goodness of his heart or for other reasons, terminating the agreement can be done by filing a simple quitclaim deed. The deed must list you as the grantee to which the easement is quitclaimed, and it has to be recorded with the county in order to eliminate the easement from the legal records.
As the owner of the servient land, or the ground upon which the easement exists, a claim of financial hardship cannot be used to terminate the easement. If you and your neighbor share a dirt or gravel driveway that he would like paved and you cannot afford to share in that expense, the easement still has to remain intact — and the driveway likely has to remain unpaved. This is another reason to be familiar with the terms of the easement agreement. The agreement may only call for the two of you to share in maintaining the driveway without requiring either of you to be responsible for improvements, but even if it does require that the driveway be paved, your lack of finances to do so will not be grounds to terminate the easement.