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Legal Memorandum: Requirements of a Prescriptive Easement

Issue: Whether a neighbor has established the necessary elements for a prescriptive easement for a continuous 15-year period over a second neighbor’s driveway in Minnesota if the property has been conveyed by a tax deed.

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Real Estate Law
Keywords: Prescriptive easement; Use of driveway
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 287 N.W.2d 923; 196 N.W.2d 626; 603 N.W.2d 650; 63 N.W.2d 22; 283 N.W. 406
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 02/01/2012

In order for the rebuttable presumption of hostility to arise, the neighbor must first prove that his use of the driveway was open, visible, continuous, and unmolested for a period of 15 years.  Block v. Sexton, 577 N.W.2d at 524; Ehle v. Prosser, 197 N.W.2d at 462; Nordin v. Kuno, 287 N.W.2d at 926. 

Under Minnesota law, a state tax deed conveys property to the subsequent purchaser as it existed at the time of tax forfeiture and does not extinguish or destroy an unrecorded easement existing at that time.  Alvin v. Johnson, 63 N.W.2d 22, 28 (Minn. 1954); see also Rogers v. Moore, 603 N.W.2d 650, 653 (Minn. 1999) (where driveway was used continuously from 1969 to 1984, tax forfeiture of the property in 1994 had no effect on the prescriptive easement). 

However, where a prescriptive easement has not yet been established at the time a tax lien attaches to property, any adverse claims to the property are extinguished and the prescriptive period begins anew following the sale of the forfeited property to the subsequent purchaser.  In Hacklander v. Parker, 283 N.W. 406 (Minn. 1939), the claimant demonstrated that her grantor had possessed a strip of land for nine years before the state’s tax lien attached on the property in 1920.  After the landowner purchased the property from the state in 1930, the claimant claimed ownership of the strip of land by adverse possession.  The court […]

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