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  1. #1
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    Default Driveway Damaged by Neighbor

    My question involves personal property located in the State of: New Jersey

    I have a flag lot. One neighbor has access to a portion of my driveway in order to get to one of her pasture fields. This neighbor does NOT need to use the driveway for any other reason, such as getting to their home. This right to use the driveway was given many decades ago (probably 50 years) and I don't think there is any kind of written contract or anything.

    I've been living here for 30 years and up until now there hasn't been a problem. Currently this neighbor is doing something in her field that involves big trucks coming in dumping loads of dirt. This driveway wasn't made to accomodate this sort of use. The trucks (which continue to come daily and have for a couple weeks) have damaged my driveway and the grass on each side of it. There are huge ruts and the stones on the driveway are gone from the truck spinning. It's been raining so there are big ruts everywhere.

    I do not have a good relationship with this neighbor and she is one that really knows how to work the system. Just within the last couple years I had my driveway graded and stoned, and now some of the driveway will need that done again. This work is expensive.

    Is there anything I can do? I do not want to get into having to pay attorney fees, win, and she still doesn't fix the driveway. By that, I mean even if she is legally obligated to fix it, if she doesn't comply there is nothing that can be done to her. That is my delimma.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Driveway Damaged by Neighbor

    If a person liable to you for damages, there are some a avenues to explore such as seeking a court address the matter which could possibly result in a (most likely) civil contempt charge. There are sometimes means to take the money from the judgment debtors bank accounts or even seizing and selling property.

    And yes, in some cases you just can’t collect. If you ended up in that sort of situation I would consider asking the court to terminate the easement if they refuse to pay their obligation. If the court does, at least you wouldn’t have future damages to contend with.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Driveway Damaged by Neighbor

    Quote Quoting allenport
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    My question involves personal property located in the State of: New Jersey

    I have a flag lot. One neighbor has access to a portion of my driveway in order to get to one of her pasture fields. This neighbor does NOT need to use the driveway for any other reason, such as getting to their home. This right to use the driveway was given many decades ago (probably 50 years) and I don't think there is any kind of written contract or anything.
    There must be an easement, either granted by express language or by some other doctrine that allowed your neighbor to use your property to access her land through your land. That doctrine may be an easement by prior use, or an easement of necessity, or an easement established by the courts to name a few. The use of your land may have been a permissive use. In that case, it was a license to use the land. And you can revoke that license.

    You need a title search to find out if there are any recorded easements for your neighbor to use your property and what constrictions if any apply to the use.

    There are doctrines that could be about prescriptive use and adverse possession that could apply.

    Consult with a local attorney and provide all the information you have. It will cost a few dollars but you need to know what easement was established. If there was none, then your neighbor has no rights to use your land.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Driveway Damaged by Neighbor

    Quote Quoting jk
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    If a person liable to you for damages, there are some a avenues to explore such as seeking a court address the matter which could possibly result in a (most likely) civil contempt charge.
    Most likely a contempt charge? I don't think so. Contempt is the result of a violation of a court order. The OP doesn't have any court order that requires the neighbor to do anything yet, much less a situation where the neighbor has failed to obey a court order such that contempt sanctions can be sought. Moreover, you mention contempt in the same breath as money damages and the failure to pay a money judgment does not result in contempt as a money judgment is not an order to pay (unlike a child support order). A judgment instead just gives the judgment holder a right to collect the judgment by attaching income and assets of the judgment debtor that are not exempt from attachment under federal and state law.

    If the OP goes to court, he or she has two options. The OP may sue for money damages. As noted, though, the failure to pay a money judgment would not result in contempt.

    The OP may also sue the neighbor for an injunction, which in this case would be an order that would limit or prohibit the neighbor's use of the driveway. A violation of an injunction may lead to a sanction for contempt. But to get there, the OP must first get that injunction and the neighbor would have to willingly violate it. As it stands right now we have no indication that the neighbor would violate an injunction. So to say now that most likely the outcome would be contempt is at the very least rather premature.

    Note that the OP may pursue both a money judgment and injunction at the same time.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Driveway Damaged by Neighbor

    Quote Quoting Taxing Matters
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    Most likely a contempt charge? I don't think so. Contempt is the result of a violation of a court order. The OP doesn't have any court order that requires the neighbor to do anything yet, much less a situation where the neighbor has failed to obey a court order such that contempt sanctions can be sought. Moreover, you mention contempt in the same breath as money damages and the failure to pay a money judgment does not result in contempt as a money judgment is not an order to pay (unlike a child support order). A judgment instead just gives the judgment holder a right to collect the judgment by attaching income and assets of the judgment debtor that are not exempt from attachment under federal and state law.

    If the OP goes to court, he or she has two options. The OP may sue for money damages. As noted, though, the failure to pay a money judgment would not result in contempt.

    The OP may also sue the neighbor for an injunction, which in this case would be an order that would limit or prohibit the neighbor's use of the driveway. A violation of an injunction may lead to a sanction for contempt. But to get there, the OP must first get that injunction and the neighbor would have to willingly violate it. As it stands right now we have no indication that the neighbor would violate an injunction. So to say now that most likely the outcome would be contempt is at the very least rather premature.

    Note that the OP may pursue both a money judgment and injunction at the same time.
    the most likely referred to the civil portion of the civil contempt statement. You have also jumped several interim actions. I never said it was a direct step from where they are or even obtaining a judgment and immediately going to seeking contempt. While my statement wasn’t written all that well, you have mischaracterized my statement.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Driveway Damaged by Neighbor

    Quote Quoting jk
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    you have mischaracterized my statement.
    No, I did not. I quoted your statement verbatim. What you meant by "most likely" was not well conveyed by what you wrote, as you have yourself acknowledged. It happens. I've written posts that were not as clear as I'd like too. Pretty much everyone posting much on message boards has done that. But when your post isn't clear you have to expect others will read it differently than you intended.

    I stated how I read it and then explained my issue with it and discussed for clarity's sake how contempt would arise in a situation like this. Mischaracterization often implies that the person deliberately misstated what was said, and I certainly didn't do that.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Driveway Damaged by Neighbor

    I just looked at my deed. At the last page, it says:
    "Subject to the owners of Tax Lot #15, to use in common with the grantee herein the lane leading to and from the public road"

    It's worse than I thought because the way it reads sounds like they could legally come down the whole (long) driveway to my house. As I said above, there is absolutely no need for neighbor to use the driveway except to get into the one field. And really, there are other ways for them to get in with a regular tractor, but not with these big trucks.

    Is there any other document where I might find pertinent info on this?

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Driveway Damaged by Neighbor

    Quote Quoting allenport
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    I just looked at my deed. At the last page, it says:
    "Subject to the owners of Tax Lot #15, to use in common with the grantee herein the lane leading to and from the public road"

    It's worse than I thought because the way it reads sounds like they could legally come down the whole (long) driveway to my house. As I said above, there is absolutely no need for neighbor to use the driveway except to get into the one field. And really, there are other ways for them to get in with a regular tractor, but not with these big trucks.

    Is there any other document where I might find pertinent info on this?
    Previous deeds.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Driveway Damaged by Neighbor

    Quote Quoting Taxing Matters
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    No, I did not. I quoted your statement verbatim. What you meant by "most likely" was not well conveyed by what you wrote, as you have yourself acknowledged. It happens. I've written posts that were not as clear as I'd like too. Pretty much everyone posting much on message boards has done that. But when your post isn't clear you have to expect others will read it differently than you intended.

    I stated how I read it and then explained my issue with it and discussed for clarity's sake how contempt would arise in a situation like this. Mischaracterization often implies that the person deliberately misstated what was said, and I certainly didn't do that.
    So you say You didnt mischaracterize my statement and then accept my follow up statement that my original statement wasn’t clear. Hmmm, sure seems like that’s an admission you have mischaracterized my statement, especially using your statement about mischaracterization is OFTEN intentional. Well, if it is often, that would mean it isn’t always intentional.

    Ill stick with my statement that you mischaracterized my statement, which you did.

    And quoting my statement verbatim is meaningless when speaking of mischaracterization. I’ve no idea what the point of that point was. You may have quoted what I wrote but you then went on having misunderstood my intent wrote your response. The fact you quoted my statement adds nothing to your statement.

    you are also being redundant. If you quoted me, it must be verbatim. Anything else wouldn’t be a quote of what I wrote. It would be your words. But you didn’t quote my statement. You removed the parenthesis which changes the entire character of my statement. The adding of the parenthetical notation was intending to clarify I was speaking of a civil matter rather than a criminal matter. Not that it was most likely the defendant would be charged with contempt.

    I have no issue that you misunderstood the intent of my statement or even that you expanded on what I wrote and went on to explain the issue quite well. It was only after you felt the need to be defensive when I told you you had mischaracterized my statement that was a problem. .

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Driveway Damaged by Neighbor

    Quote Quoting allenport
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    I just looked at my deed. At the last page, it says:
    "Subject to the owners of Tax Lot #15, to use in common with the grantee herein the lane leading to and from the public road"
    The quoted statement in your deed is definitely a reference to a granted easement. What you may not yet know is what is the complete language of the grant. That may be found in the deeds of your predecessors or a separately recorded easement agreement.

    As I have already advised, you need a title search to find the grant. You can contact a local attorney, talk to local title insurance companies, or do the search yourself at the county registrar's office. There is not much to do a title search. You look up your deed and it will have a reference to your predecessors deed. Then you look up that deed and find the reference to his predecessors deed and so on. If you look at your deed, it will tell the book and page your deed is recorded in.

    The language is important because if the easement is for simple ingress/egress to the other property for farm equipment or cars for ingress/egress to a residence, the use of the lane for big construction vehicles may be considered an overburdening of the easement.

    "[T]he servient tenement will not be burdened to a greater extent than was contemplated or intended at the time of the creation of the easement ... and the use of the easement must not unreasonably interfere with the use and enjoyment of the servient estate."); Hyland, 101*101 supra, 44 N.J.Super. at 189, 129 A.2d 899
    Quote Quoting allenport
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    It's worse than I thought because the way it reads sounds like they could legally come down the whole (long) driveway to my house.?
    There would be no reason for the dominant estate to just drive past the access point to their land. Again, the grant language matters.

    One last point. If there is no language in the grant that addresses the maintenance and repair of the easement, then the courts have said that it is the dominant estate (the neighbor) that must keep the easement in repair.

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