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Implied Easements and Easements By Estoppel

There are two implied easement theories - easement by necessity and quasi-easement. Implied easements operate on the principle that the parties to the conveyance are presumed to act with reference to the actual, visible and known condition of the properties at the time of the conveyance and intend that the benefits and burdens manifestly belonging respectively to each part of the entire tract shall remain unchanged. One form of implied easement is that of necessity, occurring, for instance, when a landlocked piece of property is conveyed. The other form, a “quasi-easement” rests “upon an owner’s use pre-existing the conveyance. It [is] a legal fiction designed to surmount [a] conceptual barrier which prevents the courts from recognizing an owner’s easement in his own land.” By example, a quasi-easement can be found where an owner of a later subdivided property, before any initial conveyance of one of the smaller lots, may have used one part of the entire property for the benefit of another part. A typical example is where water lines run through the subdivision boundary. Such a use constitutes a quasi-easement which the conveyor could effectively “except” from a conveyance of the servient land.

To prove an easement under either theory, the burdened land and the benefited land, at one point, must have been united in title. Where a landowner cannot establish unity of title, claims of either an easement by necessity or a quasi-easement will fail.

There may or may not be an “easement by estoppel” in New Jersey. To the extent New Jersey courts recognize an easement by estoppel, the present owner of the landlocked parcel would have to prove that the person from whom it bought the property: (i) made false representations, engaged in concealing material facts or engaged in other similar fraudulent conduct; (ii) intended, expected or reasonably foresaw that its buyer would rely on such fraudulent concealment; and (iii) knew the true facts. Additionally, the present owner of the landlocked parcel would have to prove it: (a) had no knowledge of the true facts; (b) relied upon the conduct and statements of the seller; and (c) has suffered to its detriment.

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