GeoCarta Has Moved

Aug 11, 2005

Losing Your Land

A recent case from California provides a well timed reminder of how a property owner can use the exclusive use of his land.

Recreationists claim that they’ve been using a dirt road across private property to access public lands on Tahoe Mountain for decades.

Monica Kohs, who bought the back in December for $1.3 million, recently put up “No trespassing” signs seeking to deny the public access to the road.

However, it may be that the public has acquired the right to continue using the road through the doctrine of a prescriptive easement. Under California Law, a Prescriptive Easement is established by "obvious, open, notorious and continuous use for more than five years," according to court papers for a California case decided in 1960, Sufficool et al v. Duncan et al. While the exact amount of time required and specific circumstances vary from state to state, this case should be a reminder to all property owners to vigorously protect their rights. Or they very well may lose them.