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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
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Experience:  JA Mentor
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I bought five lots from D.C. Gov't. I went through

Customer Question

Customer: I bought five lots from D.C. Gov't. I went through foreclosure process and finally they gave me fee simple deed on all the lots. Now the D.C. Gov't is filling a suit to prevent me from using the lots. It is saying that the adjoining neighbors have been using my lots to access to their garages and thus they have prescriptive easement. This will render my lots 100% useless. I need your opinion.
JA: Thanks. Can you give me any more details about your issue?
Customer: I bought the lots at the D.C. tax sale bid. I went to court and after getting the judgement the District gave me fee simple deed. T
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Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Hi,

I'm Lucy, and I'd be happy to answer your questions today.

In order for the adjoining lot owners to get a prescriptive easement across your lots, they must have been using it without the consent of the prior owner(s) for 15 years. If they did that, it's true that they might have a continue right to cross the land - but unless the lot is barely bigger than a car width, that shouldn't prevent you from still using the land. There's no reason you shouldn't be able to build on the lot and leave a road for the neighbors. Also - how is this the government's business? The neighboring landowners are the ones who should be bringing the suit IF they want to continue crossing the properties. A prescriptive easement is typically a defense to a trespassing action or something filed by an individual who is being blocked from using land. You could actually file a Motion to Dismiss for lack of standing, because this isn't the government's problem. (Of course, if you do that, you should be prepared for the possibility that the neighbors will sue you).

You can also counterclaim against the government for violating the Fifth Amendment's Takings Clause. By preventing you from doing anything with your property, they have committed a taking and therefore owe you just compensation (meaning that, if they are able to stop you from building on your lots, they'll have to basically buy the property back from you).

One way to make the whole thing go away is to see if they will agree to allow you to build on the lots if YOU agree to grant a written easement for access across the property to the adjoining landowners, and to install a road for them to use (which it would be up to them to maintain). But before you do that, they need to prove that the neighbors meet the requirements of a prescriptive easement (so, 15 years of use). Otherwise, they'd have to pay you for the right to use that part of your land. A fair price would be based on the value per square footage of the land, times the total amount of land being used, minus a portion because you'd still be able to use the road, too.

If you have any questions or concerns about what I've written, please reply so that I may address them. If I did not address the specific thing that you wanted to know, it may not have come across clearly to me, so please restate that question. It's important to me that you are 100% satisfied with the service I provide. Otherwise, please rate my service positively so that I get credit for answering your question. Thank you.

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