Can an owner who has deeded beach rights sell those rights without selling associated land?
State/Country relating to question: Michigan
Just heard from a new deeded beach owner that the previous owner had sold rights without land to some folks down the road. Doesn't sound legal, so we wonder.
Thank you for your question.It depends on exactly what rights that holder *has*.That will depend on the deed.Property rights were explained once as being like a bundle of sticks. Owning land outright with no associated debt is the entire bundle. Little pieces of the bundle, less than the full rights, can and are sold off. A lease, for example, peels off the mere right of possession and use, which includes the right to exclude others (fence it off and prosecute trespassers, etc.) except to some degree the landlord, but with either an expiration date or a mechanism/rule for the right of possession to expire.An easement is a limited right to pass over, or even dig into, the land. Think utilities.There is no real requirement for any recording of a written instrument to effect a transfer of land rights, but unless the partial interest in land is a lease of a year or more, there *is* a "statute of frauds" requirement to have every conveyance of land be in writing and signed by the person giving it away/selling it.But even a written deed or other writing that satisfies the statute of frauds cannot convey MORE of an interest in land than the giver/seller actually has.That's why the answer is "it depends".Thank you.BAB.
Thank you. Of course such answers must be both qualified and generic, So I'll try again. The seller of land was a long-time owner of the beach (for several generations), but when they obtained the land in the 1920s, there was an agreement among several neighbors that they would all share beach rights. That right and an associated easement for walking to the beach was recorded on several deeds. A few of the properties have changed hands a few times and the are no legal questions about the rights going with the land.BUT, now we hear that the seller (original family from the 1920s) sold rights (or access?) to a non-land owner. Hmm. Any further thoughts?Thanks. -- Peter
I have to correct myself above--I should have written "year or less" regarding the statute of frauds. Short-term leases can be verbal contracts conveying a limited interest in land. Sometimes I start thinking about it from one perspective, then shift to the other perspective by the end of the sentence.Regarding a sale of some right to access land without selling the underlying land:Yes, that happens all the time. A prior owner of MY lot sold a right of access over and/or over AND under what is now my land to the gas company, another one to the electric company, and a third one to the phone company.None of those involved selling the land itself to any of those three utilities. A single stick was pulled out of the bundle, the owner of the "fee simple" interest kept all the rest.Any of those easement holders could transfer their easement rights to someone else, but only for the same purposes.It would be different if there were merely permission to pass over, legally called a "license". Those can be revoked at any time--though they can also be subject to contract-imposed restrictions and remedies for breach and such.The final answer is that it is legally possible to do what you describe. However, it might also be proper or improper based on what specific land interests each party has and which each party attempted to convey. Can't sell what you don't have, for one thing. Another thing is that if one's easement is specifically tied to one's possessory interest in an adjacent parcel of land, then that easement right is "appurtenant" to the "dominant estate" and usually cannot be separated from the rest of the fee simple interest. That may or may not be the case, depending on the ownership status of the beach land being accessed (sounds like private land) and the nature of the "beach rights" which were previously recorded and which you believe to be connected to the neighboring lot. Since there are several other types of "rights of use" in land besides easements, it would take some examination of the documents and some legal analysis of what is written there to know for sure.So, it still "depends", it could be proper or it might not, depending on what is written in those documents.Thank you.BAB.
Thirteen years of experience in real estate matters, HOA disputes and drafting HOA documents
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