Options for the Landlocked Michigan Landowner
How to Open Your Landlocked Property in Michigan
What options does Parcel L have?
Imagine you are the owner of Parcel L; you have prime water-front riparian property yet no legal access to
Parcel L from the public state-highway. Under Michigan law, you have various options to "open" your parcel for access.
Buy all or a portion of your neighbor's property.
One of the surest and easiest ways to gain access to the roadway is to simply purchase the adjoining land which touches the roadway. Neighboring landowners are sometimes willing and able to sell all or the needed portion of land to allow for ingress and egress (the right to go to and from) to the landlocked property.
Easement by Purchase
Instead of outright purchase, landlocked property owners can purchase an easement across the neighboring property. An easement provides the legal right to use part of a property that he or she does not own. The most common known type of easement is a shared driveway. These easements are known as purchased easements or expressed easements. Neighbors are often times more willing to use this method because they keep ownership of the land and can use the property in the same manner as a secondary driveway for their own land. Often times, the offer to pay for a properly installed shared-driveway as an easement can result in the neighbor providing the easement at no cost.
Easement by Necessity
Michigan law recognizes a special easement which is created by an imposed court order, often times against the will of the neighbor. This easement, known as an easement by necessity, is imposed typically only when no other option is available. A common example is truly landlocked property. However, the need for such access must be extremely high. As the courts have explained, "mere convenience, or even reasonable necessity, will not be sufficient if there are alternative routes, even if these alternatives prove more difficult or more expensive." Courts will routiuely not grant such an easement when there remains any possible way to access a public roadway.
Easement by Prescription
An easement by prescription is a very old judically-recognized claim which results in a court recognizing that a trespasser's long-term use of property for a particular purpose should vest title to the trespasser. In Michigan, the use must, in legal terminology, be open, notorious, adverse, and continuous for a period of fifteen years. In other words, the owner must have known or should have known about the trespasser and his continuous use for at least fifteen years and did nothing to stop the trespasser. Michigan also places a higher standard of proof than typical civil lawsuits. If even one aspect of the claim is unfulfilled, no right will be found.
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