Citation. 532 S.W.2d 763, 1976 Ky.
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Brief Fact Summary.
A property had a roadway that was used by others with permission. A user of the road claims an easement by estoppel over the road.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
If a landowner lets another improve property and reasonably rely on access to the property, the owner will be deemed to have created an easement by estoppel and so will not be able to deny the improver access to the land.
The Holbrooks (Appellants) owned property on which a road was built for the purpose of moving coal from a mine. The Taylors (Appellees) bought land which adjoined Appellants and built a house on that land. No evidence exists indicating that the use of the haul road during that period of time was adverse, continuous or uninterrupted. When Appellees were building their house, they used the road with permission of Appellants. Even after the house had been constructed, Appellees continued to use the road to get to their home from the highway. Appellees were given permission to repair the roadway by Appellants.
When a licensee makes improvements on land and reasonably believes the owner will continue to grant him access to the land, can the owner be estopped from denying the licensee access to the land?
First, there is no right to an easement by prescription because the use of the road was not adverse, continuous or uninterrupted.
However, the right to use a road on the land of another may be established by estoppel. When a license includes the right to make improvements at the licensee’s expense on the land as well as a right of entry, the licensor may not revoke the license. The license becomes irrevocable.
The license is a grant through estoppel because it would be unconscionable to revoke the license when the licensee has made improvements and used the land in reliance the licensor’s promise.
The use of the road by Appellees to get to their home from the highway, the use of the road to build their residence and the improvements on the road by Appellees, all of which were done with the consent and approval of Appellants, demonstrates that the license may not be revoked under the theory of easement by estoppel.
Even though a license is normally revocable by the licensor, the owner of the land may be estopped from denying continued access to the land when the licensee has made an investment in the property and has acted in reasonable reliance on the license.