The estoppel by deed doctrine basically prevents real estate sellers from denying the existence, as well as the usage, of private easements referred to in deeds. All deeds used for transferring real estate properties include legal descriptions. This ensures everyone involved in the transfer is aware of the boundaries of properties and other pertinent information.
Some deeds have a legal description that states there is a private right of way on the property. When the grantor owns that private right of way, there is usually an implied easement conveyed, so the new owner can utilize that right of way. The grantor cannot deny the existence of that right of way in the future, according to the estoppel by deed doctrine.
The estoppel by deed doctrine has been upheld by the courts multiple times now. The most recent cases have included Loeffler v. Bernier and 700 Lake Ave. Realty v. Dolleman. Therefore, grantors cannot try to erase these implied easements when future owners are living on the property or even remove the easement of current owners who have been using the easement for many years.
Unintended Consequences of the Estoppel by Deed Doctrine
There are a few unintended consequences of the estoppel by deed doctrine though. The biggest unintended consequence is that the owners of the implied easements can utilize those easements at any time. This even includes the following circumstances:
- The deed doesn’t explicitly give anyone and everyone the right to use the easement
- The original grantor currently owns the easement
- The grantor didn’t intentionally approve the easement
- The person using the easement didn’t reasonably expect they would receive the easement
- The easement is no longer necessary to access the property
All developers, and property owners considering creating implied easements, should be aware of any potential consequences with implied easements being referenced on a deed. The implied easement rights can easily be transferred with the estoppel by deed doctrine, even in unusual circumstances. One of the unusual circumstances I can think of is when a grantee has permission to drive across a property but now has access to a public highway. The grantee can now utilize the highway, but according to the doctrine, still has the right to drive across the property thanks to the implied easement.
It is always best to make sure the language used on the deed is clear, so that easements are created for specific circumstances. This will help avoid issues, since the easements will not be implied.
Do you have any questions about implied easements or the estoppel by deed doctrine? I can try to answer any questions you have, so contact me today.