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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2016
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    Default What to Do About Neighbors' Complaints About Your Use of a Private Road

    My question involves real estate located in the State of: Texas

    About 14 months ago my wife and I bought a residence and the 10 acres it sat on. At the same time, we bought an adjoining property (with no improvements or buildings) that connects that property to a public road. When we bought the residence it was landlocked and accessed by a private drive/road through several people's private property and dead ends at the land we bought. However, the neighbors along this road don't keep up the road regularly and it has a a lot of potholes and sometimes the seasonal ravine fills up and makes passing though it difficult for low cars. From the start, we intended to renovate and use the house to rent out on the weekends to groups of people wanting to gather for parties (such as family reunions and weddings). The previous owners of the residence were almost absentee owners, visiting their property once or twice a year, and it needed updating and repairs. We now rent the house on the weekend only (Thursday 5:00 PM - Sunday at 11:00 AM) and the rest of the time the house is vacant. We don't live at the new residence, we actually live in a house at the beginning of the private drive where it connects to the public road. We also intended to put our own private drive through that newly purchased adjoining property to have a straight road from the rent house to the public road, because the condition of the private drive might keep people from wanting to rent the party house. All of that was accomplished in 2 months and we now have this new successful business, thriving for almost a year.

    When we bought the house, I told the owners of the other properties along the road that we were putting in our own drive on our private property so that none of our people (maids, landscapers, contractors, people renting the house, their guests, bartenders, caterers, DJs, etc.) would ever need to go through their property (sent as a text message, so they wouldn't complain about all the traffic, noise and strangers) and asked them to be patient with us. They were, but some reluctantly.

    During the construction, all we heard from 2 of the 4 neighbors along that road was complaints about some of my contractors and workers. Some of the complaints were of livestock gates being left open, livestock getting out, reckless driving, excessive speed, rude behavior, trash, and supposedly some materials were stolen and some were broken, but I have no way of verifying that. One of the groups of contractors I hired, got out the car and killed a big snake that was crossing the road on the property of the lady next door. The owner should have been grateful! But instead, I had to hear her complaining about killing her "rodent eaters" and how rat snakes were not harmful. Some people find complaints in everything. I can't be responsible for everything that everyone does at all times.

    After the road was put in, I found that some of the trucks were causing excessive wear to my own private drive. After having to pay to get some damage fixed, I decided to continue to use the neighbor's private drive for maintenance of the rental house. The complaints continued and increased from 2 of them, not only about the contractors passing through their land, but now I have to hear about them complaining about the noise (which is just amplified music outside) from the parties. In Texas, the threshold is 85 decibels (I looked it up), and, given the distance from the house to her property line, I can't see how it's ever gotten that loud, and it isn't my fault if they can hear the noise inside their house with the windows closed. It's only one night of the week (Saturday) and sometimes two (Friday).

    A couple of times, people showed up at the house of the people next door and at another house next to that one. They got there by opening the gate between our rental house property and theirs. One of them showed up at 1:00 AM on a Friday night. After finding out that the guy was a guest from the rent house, she didn't call the cops, but directed him back and asked him to leave, which he did. I don't see this as my fault. Its unreasonable to expect me to be responsible for everyone's actions. One time it was a couple of young guys trying to get to our rental house through their property, but these guys didn't work for me and weren't renters, either, and had no business at my rent house. She turned them away. Again, not my fault.

    Up until recently, only one neighbor complained to the cops about a vandalized latch on his gate and the lady who lives next to the rent house said that telling me, instead of calling the cops, was to be neighborly and to continue to work with me to fix these problems. I don't see it that way and her complaints have become a nuisance for me. I don't even bother to respond to most of them anymore.

    The lady next door put a lock on the gate between her property and mine, for her "security" (I found out that this was right after the Saturday morning 1:00 AM "trespasser" showed up at her house). I found this out on the Wednesday after because I had sent one of my guys to go cut the lawn before the next renters show up there and she told him he can't pass through her property anymore and turned him away. He had to load the mower onto the trailer and drive over to the rent house via the public road and down my private road. It's not any further but it would be far more convenient to have him just drive the mower through her property on the private road.

    I went over to the fence that divides my rental from her land and found her working close to the gate and firmly told her she better remove that lock or I'd cut it because I have every right to go through her property to get to mine. She refused and told me I haven't exercised control over the contractors or guests for my business. And left but I told her I was coming back. So I went back home and sent her a text that she had until lunch time to remove that lock or I'd call the cops and have them remove that lock. She didn't respond. Well, she had already called the cops and told them I was bullying her, she was afraid of what I might do when I came back, why she put the lock on the gate (for her "security"), told them about the few times that she had to deal with trespassers and didn't bother to tell the cops that I have every right to go through her property if I want. She is ridiculous. The cop shows up at my house and tells me not to cut the lock until we can work this out in civil court or through mediation. (I went and cut the lock anyway.)

    What I want to know is, how can I make her stop turning away my contractors and workers and keep her from putting locks on the gate? I also want her to stop complaining about these things I'm not responsible for, too.

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Default Re: What to Do About Neighbors' Complaints About Your Use of a Private Road

    When you look at the deed that conveys you your right to use the private road, what is the exact granting language for the road?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2016
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    2

    Default Re: What to Do About Neighbors' Complaints About Your Use of a Private Road

    It just defines this road's dimensions (60' wide).

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    38,714

    Default Re: What to Do About Neighbors' Complaints About Your Use of a Private Road

    Rat snakes are beneficial animals and do not pose any serious threat to humans.

    The fact livestock gates were left open is a serious problem. Nobody wants your trash or your contractors trash. You might want to do something about that.

    as to getting to to stop complaining; you can't. Deal with it

    as to getting her to stop locking the gate or turning away your contractors: that's what courts are for.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    672

    Default Re: What to Do About Neighbors' Complaints About Your Use of a Private Road

    Sine you are unwilling to post the granting language, not much anyone here can help with. Easements generally define uses that are/are not allowed. Probably time for a lawyer.

    I would have locked the gate on you, too. When you talk to the lawyer, ask if you might be held responsible for the actions of your guests and employees.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
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    6,326

    Default Re: What to Do About Neighbors' Complaints About Your Use of a Private Road

    Let's see if I understand. You bought two properties. One fronted the public road and one was behind it that you called landlocked. But it wasn't landlocked because you had an easement for ingress/egress through 4 other properties (or through at least one other property). You built your own drive through the property that fronts the road to the rear property but you want to keep using the ROW to access the rear property.

    You are the dominant tenant and the neighbor that owns the property that the gate is on is a servient tenant. While you say that the deed only states the width of the easement it must also state the location of the easement and the intent. It must state what the easement is for such as ingress and egress. If it doesn't address anything else such as maintenance, then the presumption is that the dominant tenants will maintain the easement. The servient tenant cannot lock you out and at least has to make reasonable accommodations for your use of the easement. The police are not going to get into the middle of a civil dispute. But while you have a right to go through the gate, you don't have the right to destroy someone else's property ( the lock or the gate).

    You can take the easy way or the hard way. You seem to want your cake and eat it also. You have built a new road but you don't what construction vehicles doing damage to it. But it is OK to damage the other ROW which you, as a dominant tenant is responsible to maintain.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    15,497

    Default Re: What to Do About Neighbors' Complaints About Your Use of a Private Road

    Quote Quoting budwad
    View Post
    Let's see if I understand. You bought two properties. One fronted the public road and one was behind it that you called landlocked. But it wasn't landlocked because you had an easement for ingress/egress through 4 other properties (or through at least one other property). You built your own drive through the property that fronts the road to the rear property but you want to keep using the ROW to access the rear property.

    You are the dominant tenant and the neighbor that owns the property that the gate is on is a servient tenant. While you say that the deed only states the width of the easement it must also state the location of the easement and the intent. It must state what the easement is for such as ingress and egress. If it doesn't address anything else such as maintenance, then the presumption is that the dominant tenants will maintain the easement. The servient tenant cannot lock you out and at least has to make reasonable accommodations for your use of the easement. The police are not going to get into the middle of a civil dispute. But while you have a right to go through the gate, you don't have the right to destroy someone else's property ( the lock or the gate).

    You can take the easy way or the hard way. You seem to want your cake and eat it also. You have built a new road but you don't what construction vehicles doing damage to it. But it is OK to damage the other ROW which you, as a dominant tenant is responsible to maintain.
    I conquer with the bolded...and I would have locked you out too, for security purposes.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: What to Do About Neighbors' Complaints About Your Use of a Private Road

    Quote Quoting DentonP
    View Post
    At the same time, we bought an adjoining property (with no improvements or buildings) that connects that property to a public road. When we bought the residence it was landlocked and accessed by a private drive/road through several people's private property and dead ends at the land we bought. However, the neighbors along this road don't keep up the road regularly and it has a a lot of potholes and sometimes the seasonal ravine fills up and makes passing though it difficult for low cars.
    As previously noted, you have chosen not to share with us the actual granting language. But let's say that the grant is merely of a right-of-way, 60' in width, for the benefit of the various homes along its length. You would need to look at the facts surrounding the initial grant to try to determine the intent of the grant. From what you have told us about your land and neighbors, I expect that the intent was to allow people to build and access single family homes, and that your use of the right-of-way for business purposes would be deemed an excessive use.
    Quote Quoting DentonP
    When we bought the house, I told the owners of the other properties along the road that we were putting in our own drive on our private property so that none of our people (maids, landscapers, contractors, people renting the house, their guests, bartenders, caterers, DJs, etc.) would ever need to go through their property (sent as a text message, so they wouldn't complain about all the traffic, noise and strangers) and asked them to be patient with us.
    That may constitute an abandonment of the right-of-way, rendering any subsequent use to be permissive. In Texas, abandonment of an easement requires a definite act showing an intention to abandon and terminate the right possessed by the easement owner -- and your text message appears to fit the bill. Your neighbors could also argue that their tolerance of your over-use of the easement was made in reliance on your promise to abandon it in favor of a road exclusively on your own property, and that you should be estopped from claiming a continuing right to use the easement. Basically, if this ends up in court it could be a big, expensive mess for you with no guarantee that you'll have any subsequent right to use the easement.
    Quote Quoting DentonP
    I also want her to stop complaining about these things I'm not responsible for, too.
    Unless you find a working magic wand or release a wish-granting genii while polishing a lamp, neither of which seem likely seem likely, you're going to be stuck listening to your neighbors complaints.
    Quote Quoting budwad
    View Post
    While you say that the deed only states the width of the easement it must also state the location of the easement and the intent. It must state what the easement is for such as ingress and egress.
    In Texas, absent something to the contrary in a grant, the location and purpose of an easement belong initially to the grantor at the time of the conveyance of the easement to the dominant estate. Holmstrom v. Lee, 26 S.W.3d 526 (Tex. App.-Austin 2000, no pet.). Once established, neither the location or character of the easement can be changed without the consent of the parties. See Samuelson v. Alvarado, 847 S.W.2d 319, 323 (Tex.App.-El Paso 1993, no writ) ("[W]here an easement is granted without definite location, the right to locate belongs to the owner of the servient estate, which right is to be exercised in a reasonable manner with due regard for the rights and interests of the dominant owner....") Where somebody later acquires property that is served by an easement, he takes the property subject to the existing restrictions and cannot enlarge or abuse his privilege to use the easement. See, e.g., Kearney & Son v. Fancher, 401 S.W.2d 897, 905 (Tex.Civ. App.-Fort Worth 1966, writ ref'd n.r.e.). From what we have been told so far, the right-of-way was created and was maintained for access by the various dominant estates, with that use being light and non-commercial in nature.

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