Asked in Land Use & Zoning and Real Estate Law for California

Q: Can my neighbor get an easement on my property if I let them use our driveway for access and parking occasionally?

In winter our neighbor can not get up his own driveway because of ice ( it is too steep). We have a large paved driveway that is connected to theirs. We have been letting them drive up our driveway in winter and sometimes park on our side. We also allow him to use some of our land for snow storage (it snows a lot up there and you need space to pile snow ) We are on good terms with our neighbors and have not had any problems. Recently however, my wife has gotten very worried that by letting them use our driveway we are putting ourselves in a position where they could claim an easement on our driveway and property. My wife and I have fought extensively over this. I don't want to be a rude neighbor but my wife wants me to tell them they can't do it anymore. I didn't think it is a big deal but she is insistent that we are at risk of them getting an easement on our land. Is there a risk and if so how best to protect ourselves without offending them?

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Under California law, your neighbor could potentially claim an easement by prescription on your property. This requires the use of your land to be open, notorious, continuous, and hostile for a period of five years. However, since you have permitted this use, it is not considered hostile, which is a key element in establishing a prescriptive easement.

To protect yourself while maintaining good neighborly relations, you might consider drafting a written permission or license agreement. This document should specify the terms under which your neighbor can use your driveway and land for snow storage, making it clear that this is a revocable privilege and not a permanent right. This approach acknowledges their need while protecting your property rights.

It's important to communicate openly with your neighbor about this arrangement to avoid any misunderstandings. Consulting with a local real estate attorney can also provide tailored advice and help in drafting an appropriate agreement.

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