Did you know… the owner of a landlocked parcel can acquire an easement by necessity over a neighbor’s land?

A case recently decided in Loudoun County, Virginia addressed when an easement by necessity is created. The Eatons, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, owned three contiguous parcels in Loudoun County, Virginia which were landlocked—there was no recorded easement or public road providing access from the parcels to the main roadway. In order to gain entry to an access road that would allow them to access the main road, they had to cross the defendant, Baer’s, land.  

The Eatons filed a suit against Baer in the Loudon County Circuit Court to establish an easement by necessity across Baer’s land. The Court found that both the Eatons’ land and Baer’s land had been commonly owned in the past. The Court also found that when the prior owner sold the parcel of land containing Baer’s lot, he failed to reserve an easement for the three landlocked parcels that he still owned, the parcel now owned by the Eatons. Because there was no alternative access for the Eatons’ property, and because the property was entirely surrounded by land belonging to strangers and Baer, whose property had been under joint ownership with the Eatons' property in the past, the Court found that those factors implied an easement by necessity. The result: Baer had to allow the Eatons to cross her land.

This case reminds us of the importance of an owner’s title insurance policy. If Baer had no knowledge of the Eatons landlocked parcels prior to the purchase of her lot, the title policy likely would have covered the costs of Baer’s legal defense and reimbursed her for the devaluation in her land due to the easement.