The California Court of Appeal held that a tenant of leased property cannot obtain an easement by prescription because the landlord is unable to enter the premises to prevent the easement by prescription form taking place until the lease is terminated.
A tenant in possession of the property cannot claim an easement by prescription against the landlord.
Dietrich International Truck Sales, Inc. (Plaintiff) operates a repair and sales truck store adjacent to a terminal station or a truck stop. The terminal currently is in possession of a lease with a landlord named Brown (Defendant) for 49 years. Dietrich for years had utilized a road in order to drive large trucks to get them serviced. The road ran along the property of the Terminal. Dietrich now claims an easement. The Terminal was forced to install new tanks due to an environmental regulation. The recommended action was to put a barrier where Dietrich’s supposed easement is located. Dietrich brought suit to quiet title. Trial court ruled in favor of Dietrich. Both terminal and brown appealed.
whether a tenant in possession can obtain an easement by prescription against the landlord?
No. The court sides with Brown and his argument that the landlord does not have legal access to the property during a lease in order to prevent the easement from occurring. The court cites a California law that states a landlord is unable to block third parties from obtaining easements while a tenant is in possession. Therefore, the court reverses the judgment against Brown the landlord, but upholds the easement against Terminal.
The Court allows the easement against terminal because terminal is not the landlord and therefore could have quieted title when they noticed Plaintiff using their property for a right of way.