Easement Defined. An easement is a right to use or enter onto the property of another in a specified manner without possessing it. The easement benefits the owner of the easement (the dominant tenement) and burdens the land of the land owner (the servient tenement). Reciprocal easements in common interest developments are "express easements" because they are expressly created in the association's CC&Rs.
Reciprocal Easements as Common Area. Common area may consist of mutual or reciprocal easement rights appurtenant to the separate interests.” (Civ. Code, §4095(b).) A reciprocal easement arises when adjoining landowners impose corresponding restrictions or rights upon each of their properties. (Redevelopment Agency v. Tobriner (1989) 215 Cal.App.3d 1087, 1091, fn. 1.) For a reciprocal easement to exist, there must be a shared burden.
An example of a reciprocal easement is a small condominium building with a common driveway. Each condominium owner may grant a reciprocal easement to the other condominium owners that allows each owner to drive anywhere on the driveway and preventing any owner from erecting a barrier. (Howeth v. Coffelt (2017) 18 Cal.App.5th 126, 129; Civ. Code, §4505(a).) Easements granted to utility companies do not qualify since they are not mutual. There is no shared burden since the easement runs in one direction only--the burden is only on the homeowner. With associations, utility companies do not grant easements to the homeowners or the association,. Thus, the utility companies are not burdened.
Mutual Easement. A mutual easement has the same meaning as a reciprocal easement: “[A] general plan of real estate development can give rise to mutual equitable servitudes only when both the grantor and grantee intend that the land conveyed is to be restricted pursuant to a general plan, that intent appears in the deed, the parties’ agreement shows that the parcel conveyed is subject to restrictions in accordance with the plan for the benefit of all the other parcels in the subdivision and such other parcels are subject to like restriction for its benefit.” (Terry v. Jones (1977) 72 Cal.App.3d 438, 442.) Thus, mutual easements are defined by a “mutuality of obligation.” (Welsch v. Goswick (1982) 130 Cal.App.3d 398, 405.)
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