Visitor Asks: If reciprocal easements are on the plat of a single family development and some owners don't want their easement and have the board vote to get rid of them--but keep them on mine--can they do this? They are supposed to run with the land in Colorado.
Editors Answer: Katrina, first we should tell our visitors what reciprocal easements are, since this term may not be familiar to many. In fact, the most common use of reciprocal easements is in shopping center development, but sometimes they are employed in residential settings too.
An easement simply is a right for some person or entity to enter and use your property for a designated reason. The typical homeowner's lot may have easements over it for use by utility companies accessing their pipes or lines, for example.
A reciprocal easement is employed when two or more property owners need to share a space. Perhaps most commonly in residential areas, reciprocal easements often are used to denote shared driveways. For instance, you and I may have a common driveway when neither of us has enough room on our own property for a complete driveway. So you see, you need an easement over my property so that you can drive your car a little bit over my property, and I need an easement over your property because my vehicle would encroach on your property otherwise.
You don't say what the purpose of the reciprocal easements is, but that's a good guess.
So you're saying that the board has allowed some owners to request that the reciprocal easements on the plat be dropped, and this has been granted. (A question for you to consider, and to ask your local city or county government, is whether this is even a legal action on the part of your board. In most states, modifying a "plat" requires an action of the government, not of a homeowners association. But perhaps you are referring to a governmental board, not one having power only over your development or subdivision.)
Then it sounds as though the same people are denying your request to drop the reciprocal easement that a neighbor has over your property. The question is whether your neighbor really does need that easement to make sensible use of his or her own property, as in the example of the driveway that would be too narrow without the reciprocal easement.
If your neighbor doesn't need the easement, and you don't need an easement to use a sliver of your neighbor's property, it's pretty illogical for a board to disallow this if asked. This is especially true because other reciprocal easement agreements have been allowed to lapse. Perhaps the problem is that you did not ask in the official or legal way necessary. Check into that.
Now perhaps you or your neighbor does really need the easement. Then we think you should live with it. If it is a reciprocal easement, its existence really should diminish your property value only a very slight amount if at all, depending on the facts of the situation.
The best way to seek additional information and clarification is to ask questions of the board, whether an HOA board or a city or county board. You are quite correct in stating that reciprocal easements run with the land, meaning that they transfer over to and bind new property owners. But that does not mean that they cannot be abandoned or modified if it makes sense, all HOA procedures and covenants are followed, and your local government agrees.
If this is an HOA board taking this action, we suggest that you talk with someone in the planning department or assessor's office in your city or county to get advice. While they don't have to offer any, usually they will have some useful opinions about the situation.
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