My question involves an easement in the state of:California
Yes, this sounds odd - so I will explain. My wife and I bought a house 15 years ago (2000) that shared a driveway with an parcel that was/is an empty lot. In 2002, the lot was purchased by our "neighbor", though he has yet to even begin construction. Our common driveway is about 350 ft long, up a steep hill with a 20% grade. It is 19'-20' wide and has a small turn around at the top that serves as the entries to each lot's garage(s). We have a garage, our neighbor does not yet have one. The property lines of the two lots extend down the center-line of the driveway - each parcel owns 10' to either side of the center. Both properties have easement rights to the entire road - whether they own their portion or not. There is an additional 20' of "access easement" to either side of the roadway. The top - or the "turnaround" has reciprocal easement rights as well. This was all established in 1992 when the subdivision was adopted by the city - there is no written agreement between the two property owners.
In 2011, the neighbor went through city planning to build a home - was approved on every account, despite our objections to the home he was building. We mainly objected to the fact that the owner had no plan to stage construction, since the only way to access his land is via this 19-20' driveway. To top it off, he wants to re-grade the top of the driveway to better suit his property (frankly I do not understand why). In 2014, the neighbor was approved for a building permit, but did not pay the fees for it's issuance until mid 2015. So this has been going on for about 12 years or so - nothing has been built and the neighbor still intends to do extensive excavation work on his property (and driveway). While he is a contractor, I don't believe he has ever built a house before - or anything much larger than a bathroom.
A couple of months ago, he put up a locked construction fence right in in his side of the turnaround at the top of the hill. It's too late to build this year (rainy season better come soon!), but he keeps it that way. So there is a locked fence blocking what we and others have easement rights to use to turn around. We have been lucky in that we have been able to squeak by. Others have not. We had a furniture delivery the other day and the truck could not come up the driveway as they could not turn around. We had to rent storage (quickly) locally - and have them leave it there. To top that, my wife is disabled - with limited neck mobility among other things, so she needs more than a dime to turn out into the driveway. She feels a prisoner in her own home - and I don't blame her. To again top it off, the neighbor is now filling the turn-around area with junk - like old toilets (lots of them), wood, pipes, etc. We are talking about a neighborhood where the average house sells for $1.0M-$1.5M - and this is not the norm. The police say its a civil matter too.
This even gets more complex. We got fed up earlier this year and purchased another house which is currently being remodeled and will be finished in a month or two. We plan to move into the new one, fix and sell the old one, and use the proceeds from the sale to pay off the "bridge" mortgage" on our new house. Given the old toilets and all the other junk at our current house, this creates a situation which tremendously devalues it in a sale. We also will likely not be able to move out as the turn around is blocked - not can a buyer move in. If the "neighbor" does start to build, he will dig up the roadway so badly that there will be no way to show the house to a prospective buyer. Basically we are between a rock and a hard place.
Yes, I am about to hire an attorney, but the first thing his attorney will do will be do slap a "lis pendens" on our house (pending litigation) - and no one will ever even look at the house. Granted we can do the same to him, and it will stop him from getting a construction loan - but he is not likely to get one anyway given his apparent lack of means, the lending climate (no one around here is getting loans) and the enormous house he wants to build. I have had two contractors estimate that it would cost him easily $2M to build the house he has proposed on his land.
So we are not only between a rock and a hard place - but he wants to construct what I say is "building a ship in a bottle". We will have extended periods of non-access to our own home - even possibly when it is time to move or sell. My wife cannot possibly walk down the roadway (if we are stuck here) as it is too difficult for her disability. This is a private driveway so the city says this is a civil matter. We have spoken with the "neighbor" on countless occasions and he doesn't seem to care one bit about our rights as homeowners - just about his right to build. We recognize and acknowledge his right to build, but also feel that we have a right to live (and sell this place!). There is no reasoning with this man - we have tried over and over again. We have talked this issue with him for countless hours and all he says is that he has a right to build. I seriously don't think he has a clue to what an easement means. Ironically, we just want to sell our home and leave. But even that is endangered. If we leave and don't sell our current home, we have a year before we run out of cash to support both homes (new and old) at once. We could not even rent it as no one could be sure they could ever get in or out of it. This is the type of situation they make TV movies out of!
Any ideas, insights, suggestions, etc.? I know he is legally a "private nuisance", but to get a court order to stop him and sue him will start at $50K. Meanwhile we will run out of cash with a home we either cannot leave or sell - and another one waiting for us to move in. Ironically the new home is single floor to make easier access for my disabled wife. None of this will come to fruition given current circumstances. Basically we are coming down to our last $50K of free cash to fight this man in court. We will likely win - but also lose too (as I stated above). The whole situation is nuts and basically insolvable. Dealing with a rational person, there could be some home. But this person is not rational.
Thanks for your time reading this!