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May 19, 2016 | Kristine A. Tidgren

We’ve recently received a number of inquiries regarding wind energy agreements. This article, while not offering legal advice, is intended to inform landowners as to some of the key legal issues they should consider when evaluating a wind energy agreement proposed by a developer.

April 28, 2016 | Kristine A. Tidgren

A recent case from the Iowa Court of Appeals shines the spotlight on Iowa’s private condemnation statute, Iowa Code § 6A.4(2). The statute, which takes some people by surprise,[i] grants private landowners a narrow power of eminent domain to acquire an access route to a landlocked parcel. The Iowa case, Middle River Farms, LLC v.

March 10, 2016 | Kristine A. Tidgren

The Iowa Utilities Board voted 3-0 today to grant a hazardous liquid pipeline permit to Dakota Access, LLC under Iowa Code § 479B. The Board determined that the project would “promote the public necessity and convenience” as is required by the law.

During its last public meeting on February 19, the Iowa Utilities Board stated that it will present its order regarding the Dakota Access LLC petition to build a crude oil pipeline across Iowa on March 9 or 10. That order will also determine whether Dakota Access will be allowed to exercise eminent domain over the nearly 300 tracts of land for which voluntary easements have not been granted.

December 30, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

October 26, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

We have been keeping you up to date on the status of Dakota Access, LLC's petition to obtain a permit from the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) to construct a crude oil pipeline across Iowa.  Dakota Access, a private Texas company, filed its permit application on January 20, 2015. Since that time, the company’s land agents have negotiated voluntary easement agreements with owners of approximately two-thirds of the tracts along the route of the proposed pipeline.

We’ve been keeping you informed about a Texas company’s proposal to build a crude oil pipeline across Iowa to transport oil from North Dakota to Illinois.

June 18, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

Mistakes happen. Sometimes mistakes lead to legal liability, as in the case of negligence. But sometimes, where it’s apparent that a mistake in an instrument was a mutual one, equity steps in to “reform” the mistake. No harm. No foul. The document is reformed to reflect the true intent of the parties. A recent case from the Iowa Court of Appeals demonstrates the application of this doctrine.

On January 20, 2015, Dakota Access, LLC, filed with the Iowa Utilities Board a petition for a hazardous liquid pipeline permit.

May 7, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

A recent case from the Iowa Court of Appeals reminds us that in order to acquire title to the property of another through a prescriptive easement (a non-exclusive form of adverse possession), the plaintiff must strictly prove the elements of the claim. In this case, the plaintiff proffered no such proof.

April 16, 2015 | Roger A. McEowen

In recent years, agriculture has seen increased litigation brought by parties that are generally opposed to various types of agricultural production.  Large scale crop farming and livestock operations are in the cross-hairs, as evidenced recently by the attack in Iowa brought by the Des Moines Water Works against farmers that use field tile drainage systems to make their land suitable for cropping practices (drainage is “anti-social”) and various lawsuits brought by rural residents and activist groups against concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). 

April 15, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

The Iowa Court of Appeals again set forth the requirements to prove an easement by prescription as yet another family feud played out in the court system.

March 13, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

The Iowa Utilities Board ruled this week that Dakota Access, LLC, substantially complied with Iowa law when it notified landowners of its plans to seek a permit to build an oil pipeline across their property.

March 6, 2015 | Kristine A. Tidgren

State laws differ in the protections they grant to landowners facing eminent domain.

Rock Island Clean Line (RICL) is seeking a franchise from the Iowa Utitlies Board (IUB) to build a high voltage direct current line across Iowa. The line would transport wind energy generated in northwest Iowa to Illinois. It would cross 16 Iowa counties and 1,540 parcels of land, impacting 2,295 different owners.

The Iowa Court of Appeals recently determined that the owner of a landlocked parcel had a right to seek condemnation for an access road, but improperly sought to condemn a route that did not meet the statutory requirements.  The case is a good illustration of the statutory rules that must be followed for establishing the location of a right-of-way via condemnation.   

On January 20, 2015, Dakota Access, LLC, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, filed a petition with the Iowa Board of Utilities seeking a permit to build a crude oil pipeline across the State of Iowa. 

On June 11, 2014, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit heard oral arguments in Morehouse v. Comr., 140 T.C. No. 16 (2013).  In Morehouse, the Tax Court agreed with the IRS that Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) payments are subject to self-employment tax because a recipient is engaged in a trade or business simply by signing the CRP contract with the intent to profit from the CRP.

The Iowa Court of Appeals has ruled that a farmer obtained an easement by prescription to keep a large irrigation rig on a portion of his neighbors’ property over which he already held a right of way.

The Iowa Court of Appeals recently affirmed a district court’s judgment declaring a disputed roadway to be public and enjoining the defendant from harassing his neighbor concerning her use of the road in the future.

April 4, 2014 | Roger A. McEowen and Kristine A. Tidgren

Most electrical energy is transmitted throughout the county via high voltage overhead transmission lines. Most of these lines transmit high voltage alternating current. Newer renewable energy projects, however, require high voltage direct current lines, which allow energy to be transmitted efficiently over longer distances. 

The Iowa Court of Appeals has ruled that adverse possession can be established, even if the possessor of the property came to the property with permission.

In an 8-1 decision, the United States Supreme Court has reversed the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to find that fee simple ownership of an abandoned railroad right of way vested in the owner of the surrounding tract, not in the United States, which had claimed a reversionary interest.

The Iowa Court of Appeals recently settled a neighborhood dispute, ruling that all neighbors had the right to use a roadway that was designed to benefit the neighborhood.

February 4, 2014 | Roger A. McEowen

On January 31, the U.S. House passed H.R. 2642, the “Agricultural Act of 2014” on a 251-166 vote.

A recent federal case from the Middle District of Pennsylvania highlights the importance of carefully negotiating and reviewing terms within conservation easements so as to fully protect landowners’ interests.

The defendants were the plaintiff’s son and daughter-in-law.  In 1999, the defendants acquired a six-acre tract adjacent to the plaintiff’s farm that she owned with her husband. The tract was land-locked and zoned for agricultural use only. 

The Iowa Court of Appeals recently decided that a landowner was entitled to a prescriptive easement for a fence erected on land owned by the adjacent landowner. The court ruled, however, that his prescriptive easement did not cover anything more than the fence line and that he had not established a new boundary by acquiescence. 

October 15, 2007 | Roger McEowen

The Iowa courts have dealt with several boundary dispute cases this year, and this is the most recent case to result in an opinion at the appellate level. Here, the defendant purchased a tract of land in 2002 that had most recently been used as a salvage yard. Prior to that, the tract housed a creamery for 100 years. The defendant fenced the property (due to insurance reasons) and began clearing the tract for a housing development. The plaintiffs purchased an adjacent tract to the north a bit more than a year later.

March 12, 2007 | Roger McEowen

It is not possible to grant an easement just by word of mouth - it must be in writing. That’s because an easement is an interest in real estate and must be in writing to be enforceable. The only exceptions to this rule are when an easement is implied law (known as an easement by necessity) to allow access to a landlocked parcel, or is created by one landowner acquiescing to another party using their property for at least 10 years without stopping them (known as a prescriptive easement).

September 3, 2007 | Erin Herbold

Here, the property owners appealed a district court decision finding that the county held a prescriptive easement across their property.  An easement by prescription is similar to the concept of adverse possession.  In Iowa,  if an individual possesses someone else’s land in an open and notorious fashion with an intent to take it away from them, such person (known as an adverse possessor) becomes the true property owner after ten years. 

September 21, 2007 | Erin Herbold

The Iowa Court of Appeals has decided still another boundary dispute case. This time, the court’s opinion illustrates the peril of relying on neighborly accommodation to establish a boundary. 

October 22, 2007 | Erin Herbold

The Iowa courts have dealt with numerous cases in recent months dealing with boundaries and various rights to use property.  This case adds to the list and illustrates that land purchasers must always check for any encumbrances upon the land and understand what those encumbrances mean.  The issue is especially important when land is subdivided and sold off in lots. 

December 3, 2007 | Erin Herbold

A prescriptive easement is an easement determined to exist by law that gives the easement holder the right to use a part of another person’s property once it has been determined that the party asserting the easement has used the property in a certain manner for a set number of years (10 years in Iowa).  This case involved a county’s assertion of an easement for a road over a strip of the plaintiff’s property.


A recent opinion of the Iowa Court of Appeals reaffirms the principle that a restrictive covenant can be created by a plat. The court's opinion is a reminder that care must be taken in the preparation of plat maps, title opinions and when further development of lots contained in subdivisions is anticipated.

In yet another property ownership dispute case, the court discusses what it takes to obtain ownership to property either by adverse possession or by an easement by prescription.  Here, the parties own separate tracts of real estate on opposite sides of another tract to which they both claimed ownership rights.  The plaintiffs claimed ownership based on representations made to them, payment of property taxes and use of the tract.  The defendants claimed ownership based on representations, their use and maintenance of the property, and improvements made to the property.  In 2003, the plaintif

May 27, 2008 | Roger McEowen

It’s a fundamental principle that most people understand – it’s not a good idea to build a barn in the middle of a road.  But, that’s exactly what happened in this case from Monroe County.  

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 this case, two neighbors disputed the location of the boundary line between their properties.  The parties had previously agreed that the defendant would sell a portion of his property to the plaintiff.  When the defendant conducted a survey, it indicated that the boundary line was where he understood it to be (defendant called this Parcel A).  The plaintiff, on the other hand, understood that the parties had an agreement that the northern boundary of the property was located where a fence stood.  The problem here was the plaintiff’s understanding of where the boundary line was located m

A simple farm access lane led to a major dispute amongst multiple parties in this case. At issue here are two parcels of land- a northern and a southern parcel.  Since 1888, the various owners of the southern parcel allowed the owners of the northern parcel access to the northern tract via the southern tract.  The northern parcel was later divided in half (hereinafter referred to as N1 and N2).

In 1964, owners of riverfront property on the Mississippi River in northeast Iowa, subdivided the land into seventeen plots and sold 16 lots private landowners.   Each landowner (and their successors) was granted an easement to use the riverfront property they retained. Over the years, an oral agreement developed among the landowners that each lot would be allowed a one-boat dock. When the owners of the riverfront property sold the shoreline lot, the status quo continued, until 2007 when the Army Corps of Engineers (COE) approved a new dock plan for the shoreline lot.

November 30, 2009 | Erin Herbold

The dispute in this case stems from a controversy between the County Conservation Board and a private landowner regarding the ownership of an old railroad right-of-way.  The Board was using the abandoned rail line as a nature trail, and the county conservation board filed a petition with the trial court to quiet title via adverse possession of the railroad right-of-way. The landowner disputed the Board’s claims, stating that he was the owner of the parcel after the railroad’s easement was extinguished.

Here, the parties entered into a real estate agreement to purchase 3.7 acres of land. The real estate contract provided that the land purchase was subject to “any easements of record for public utilities, roads and highways.” The contract also provided that the sellers were responsible for obtaining an updated abstract of title, showing “merchantable title.” After closing was to occur, the buyer’s attorney prepared a title opinion noting that the property was subject to a perpetual easement and right of way for sewer in favor of the U.S. government.

When a landowner owns a parcel of land that is landlocked, the landowner can access the property by the nearest feasible route. Iowa courts have typically refused to examine the impact on the servient estate (the land that is being crossed) when determining the location of the nearest feasible route. 

February 23, 2010 | Erin Herbold

A homeowner purchased their property subject to an existing easement agreement for one of the homeowners to have access to their garage through the driveway on the other’s property. This was termed the “Drive and Landscaping Easement.” The grantee of the easement was entitled to use the “westernmost thirty feet” of the adjacent lot for driveway and landscaping purposes. The easement required that the grantee was responsible for the maintenance of the driveway and the landscaping.

This case involves an old railroad right-of-way. In 1991, the plaintiffs purchased a tract of land adjoining the right-of-way. In a separate transaction, they purchased the portion of the right-of-way that abutted their property, along with an easement for ingress and egress across a portion of the right-of-way to the southwest of their property. In 1996, the defendants purchased the property southwest of the plaintiff’s property. When the defendants purchased the property, they saw no evidence of use of their property for ingress and egress.

September 7, 2010 | Erin Herbold

In Iowa, an easement can be created either by express grant or reservation in a deed , by prescription, (3) by necessity or by implication. 

December 30, 2010 | Erin Herbold

In this case, the plaintiff sought a reversal of the trial court’s opinion that she did not have an easement by implication over her neighbor’s property.   The parties own adjoining parcels of land. A steep, wooded bluff divides the plaintiff’s property and for several years she used a gravel road running across the defendant’s property to access the rear portion of her land. The plaintiff argued that the land was inaccessible by vehicle without the use of the gravel road and that she was entitled to an easement by implication in the gravel road.

August 27, 2011 | Erin C. Herbold-Swalwell

The petitioners in this case purchased an apartment building and decided to remodel the second floor and attach an enclosed staircase resting on the roof of a garage located behind the apartment building. The petitioners assumed that they were entitled to use the garage, because the prior owners had used it. Unfortunately, the garage encroached onto the property of the respondents- adjacent landowners to the south. 

In this case, the question before the Iowa Supreme Court was whether a court order dismissing a claim reveals the court’s intent to preserve a claim arising out of the same transaction pending in another lawsuit, and whether the claim in the other lawsuit should be allowed to proceed.