Scope of Easement Usage Construed

October 6, 2008 | Erin Herbold

In Iowa, landowners with landlocked real estate are entitled to access to their property via an easement by necessity. Here, neighbors executed an easement agreement permitting access to two tracts of land (the dominant estate) through the adjacent parcel (servient estate) owned by one of the neighbors. The parties agreed to share a gravel roadway located on the easement as a driveway.  After an argument regarding the placement of property lines, the owners of the servient estate constructed a speed bump on the access road, claiming safety concerns. 

In order to avoid the speed bump when heavy rains washed away the gravel, the owners of the dominant estate drove off the gravel roadway onto grass located within the easement. The owners of the landlocked parcel filed suit against their neighbors asking the court to stop them from maintaining and building the speed bump. The owners of the servient estate then filed an answer, asking the court to force their neighbors to drive only on the gravel. The trial court ordered the owners of the servient estate to refrain from building or maintaining speed bumps more than three inches high on the gravel road and further required the owners of the dominant estate to drive only on the gravel. The owners of the landlocked portion appealed, claiming that they had rights to all land included in the easement, and should, therefore, be allowed to drive off the gravel. 

On appeal, the court affirmed. An easement must be used according to its terms and the party granting the easement must not interfere with those rights. The holder of the easement must use the easement for its intended purpose, in this case, access to the landlocked parcel. The intent of the parties when the written easement agreement was signed was to provide that access. Only the gravel road could be used for that access. Clark v. Siefworth, No. 8-655/07-1264 (Iowa Ct. App. Oct. 1, 2008)