Dear Ask the Attorney:
My neighbor and I share a common driveway entrance. He wants to block off a particular area of that driveway which would cause me not to have access to a part of my property. He is telling me to build another entrance.
Your question raises a number of potential legal issues. But, first we have to make sure that we have all the facts since, as always in legal matters, the facts are all-important.
Do you have a survey and does the survey show your existing driveway entrance as being on your property?
Does your neighbor have a survey which agrees with your survey as to the location of your driveway entrance or does your neighbor’s survey show your driveway entering on his property?
If both surveys agree that your driveway entrance is on your property – then you should have no problem. Tell your neighbor that if he attempts to block your driveway entrance, you will take the necessary Court action to protect your rights.
However, and this is probably more likely, if the two surveys do not agree, then a problem arises. Steps will then be required to determine which survey is correct. This may require hiring a surveyor or surveyors to determine which survey is correct – if the new survey or surveys do not resolve the problem, a Court action to determine which survey is correct would be the next step.
If you agree that your driveway entrance is not on your property, you should check your title insurance policy, which you probably purchased when the home was bought, to see if there was an easement of license which would allow you to use this driveway entrance. Usually, an easement allowing you to use this driveway entrance has no time limitation and if there is such an easement, your neighbor cannot prevent your usage of the entrance. However, if there is no easement, but a license specified in your title policy, then, normally, your right to use the entranceway could be revoked by your neighbor at his discretion and your right to use the driveway entrance would be extinguished.
Again, assuming that despite all of the above, your entrance is on your neighbor’s property and there is no easement, another possibility would be to examine whether you obtained the right to use the driveway by invoking the doctrine of adverse possession. Put simply, this would require a showing of “hostile” usage for over 30 years and given the fact that you describe the situation of a sharing “. . .of a common driveway entrance,” that could probably prevent you from obtaining the right to use the entrance through adverse possession.
Given all of the above, the best advice I could give you would be to immediately consult with an attorney specializing in real estate matters. He may conclude that you have a valid legal claim against your title insurance company and/or your surveyor or that you can enforce your rights to prevent your neighbor from blocking your driveway entrance. Of course, there will be a fee for consulting with an attorney now, but, that fee will be much less expensive if you attempt to handle this matter yourself and then have to consult with an attorney in the future after you have been unsuccessful.
Theodore E.B. Einhorn, Esq.
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