Prescriptive Easement California Case Law

The requirements for a prescriptive easement are identical to those for adverse possession, except that payment of taxes is rarely required. (See Gilardi v. Hallam (1981) 30 Cal.3d 317, 322, payment of taxes is a prerequisite for a prescriptive easement "only if the easement has been separately assessed".) Nonetheless, "the doctrines are not identical . . . . A successful claimant by adverse possession . . . gains title to property. By contrast, the successful claimant of a prescriptive easement gains not title but the right to make a specific use of someone else's property." (Mesnick v. Caton (1986) 183 Cal.App.3d 1248, 1261.) "An easement is a restricted right to specific, limited, definable use or activity upon another's property, which right must be less than the right of ownership." (Ibid.) Because a prescriptive easement rarely requires payment of taxes, "to escape the tax requirement for adverse possession, some claimants who have exercised what amounts to possessory rights over parts of neighboring parcels, have claimed a prescriptive easement. Courts uniformly have rejected the claim." (Kapner v. Meadowlark Ranch Assn. (2004) 116 Cal.App.4th 1182, 1187 (Kapner).) In Kapner v. Meadowlark Ranch Assn. (2004) 116 Cal.App.4th 1182, the court rejected a claim for a prescriptive easement because the plaintiff had "enclosed and possessed the land in question," holding that "the law does not allow parties who have possessed land to ignore the statutory requirement for paying taxes by claiming a prescriptive easement." (Ibid.) Applying the same reasoning, in Silacci v. Abramson (1996) 45 Cal.App.4th 558 (Silacci), the court refused to grant a prescriptive easement claimant the right to use his neighbor's property as his own fenced backyard. (Id. at pp. 562-564.) Again, in Mehdizadeh v. Mincer (1996) 46 Cal.App.4th 1296 at pp. 1305-1307, the court refused a requested prescriptive easement that would have permitted the claimant to landscape his neighbor's property, use it for recreation, and build a fence and retaining wall, while leaving the true owners only the right to "light, air, and privacy." (Id. at p. 1305.)