Beninati v. Milonas

A-6614-96T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 1998) (Unpublished)
  • Opinion Date: June 19, 1998

EASEMENTS; VIEW—New Jersey law does not recognize an implied easement for view. Where there are both easements for ingress and egress as well as for specific utilities, the ingress/egress easement does not include the right to install a utility service not included within the utility easement.

A dispute arose between two neighbors owning non-beachfront summer homes. One neighbor contended that the other wrongfully blocked his view of the Atlantic Ocean when she other built an addition onto her home. The neighbor who built the addition counterclaimed, alleging that she had an easement across the plaintiff’s property for the installation of a gas line. Both claims were dismissed by the lower court.

An earlier landowner subdivided oceanfront property into five separate landlocked lots, each behind the other. The fifth lot was the farthest east and the only one actually fronting the ocean. The final subdivision map depicted a twenty-five-foot wide “private easement” running along lots one through four. The easement was for the purpose of gaining ingress and egress to each of the lots. There was also a walkway easement to permit the other four homeowners ingress and egress to the beach and ocean. Another easement permitting electricity and telephone service was also granted. These were the only recorded easements. A builder then acquired the lots and built homes on them. The builder took care to build the homes so that each had a view of the beach and ocean. The builder then sold these homes to the parties in this lawsuit. The complaining neighbor’s view of the ocean was not entirely unrestricted when he purchased the lot. When his neighbor sought and obtained a permit to build an addition onto her home, he complained that this would further obstruct his view. He argued both that his neighbor breached an implied easement for view and that the addition constituted a nuisance.

On the other hand, while building the addition, the neighbor sought to convert from electric power to gas power, which required the installation of a gas line. The gas company sought the consent of all of the landowners to build a gas line across the property, believing no easement existed for this purpose. The complaining neighbor refused to consent. In response, the neighbor who sought the installation claimed the private easement was the functional equivalent of a public street. She also argued that the language in the twenty-five-foot easement which entitled all landlocked owners to “all things necessary for the beneficial enjoyment of their lots” was not superceded by the filing of easements for telephone and electric service.

The Appellate Division upheld the opinion of the lower court on both counts. The Court held the lower court’s dismissal of the claim was proper because New Jersey law does not recognize an implied easement for view. The Court also concluded that the complaining neighbor failed to produce evidence sufficient to establish an implied easement, because the builder had testified that additions could be made to the homes as long as they complied with the zoning laws and that there were no obstruction of view restrictions in the deeds for any of the properties. The Court also found that a nuisance did not exist because the addition only affected the complaining neighbor’s view of the ocean and not his use and enjoyment of his land. The addition was not unreasonable since it complied with the local zoning rules and the complaining neighbor had no right to an unobstructed view of the ocean. With respect to the gas line, the Court found that the easement did not cover access for the installation of a natural gas line to the house of the neighbor who sought to install it, but merely permitted ingress and egress from the landlocked lot. The Court also found the assertion that the private easement was the functional equivalent of a street to be without merit.