Easements

I was in Monsey, NY today in a subdivision constructed recently. I was interested in the fact that the blocks were connected by paved footpaths. It was unclear to me how these footpaths came to be.

My guess is that they are easements granted to the public for the walking path. This would have been a purposeful decision by the developer to connect the various streets, but what if it is not that way. What if people are just using a path between houses.

This can lead to something called a prescriptive easement, where the public ends up owning a permanent right to continued use of the path. Interestingly, the best way to avoid this is to grant permission to those using it, as prescription requires continued use over a ten year period that is open, notorious and under a claim of right to ownership. If you explicitly grant permission, then it is not under a claim of right.

Another option, is to occasionally close the path so that it is not continuous for the required period.

Why does this matter? Because when you try to sell your property, the potential buyer might not want to be as magnanimous to the public as you have been and you do not want to be giving away your property.

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