South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Woodshed Encroaching on Neighbor's Property for 7 Years Does Not Create a Property Right
Description Appeals court held that a neighbor who encroached on a vacant lot for seven years, until the buyer of the lot contested the right of the neighbor to occupy the land, did not obtain a prescriptive easement for continued use due to seven years of use. The buyer of the lot had the right to take occupancy with clear title.
Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words Prescriptive Easement; Title; Encroachment
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts In 1994 Welch built a woodshed and placed some landscaping on her property that partially encroached on the vacant lot next door. When the Harrisons bought the lot in 2001, the survey discovered the encroachment. The Harrisons sued Welch to quiet their title to the lot and to enjoin Welch’s encroachment. Welch responded by seeking to establish title in the encroachment area by a prescriptive easement to maintain the woodshed and the landscaping. The trial court held for the Harrisons. Welch appealed.

Affirmed. Unless and until an encroacher’s use of property ripens into title by adverse possession or a valid prescriptive easement, the legal titleholder’s right to bring an action to recover his or her property from the encroacher never expires. An exclusive prescriptive easement, which as a practical matter prohibits the true owner from using his or her land, will not be granted in a case involving ordinary residential boundary encroachment. In ruling on a request to enjoin an encroachment, the court can take the nature of the encroachment into account in weighing the relative hardships and determining whether the injunction will be granted. Here, the Harrisons are entitled to equitable relief in their favor.

Citation Harrison v. Welch, 11 Cal.Rptr.3d 92 (Ct. App., Calif., 2004)

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