Which case won?

casea
The case for the owner of Property A
  • The easement is on my property, yet, by its terms, it amounts to a right of joint occupation/ownership by my neighbours, which goes well beyond that which should be allowed in an easement as a matter of law.
  • That is, the easement goes too far and substantially deprives me and my family of ownership or legal possession of the easement area, and indeed other parts of my property.
  • For example, the easement gives our neighbours the right to build a permanent garage structure of unlimited height on the whole or any part of the easement strip. It also gives them the right to keep the doors of the garage closed and locked, preventing access by anyone other than them.
  • The extent of the interference with my rights of ownership of the easement area is such as to deny me reasonable use of the area of the easement.
  • The rights purportedly given by the easement leave me with very few rights over the easement area and are inconsistent with my ownership and possession of that area.
  • The court should find that the easement is not valid or enforceable by my neighbours.
caseb
The case for the owners of Property B
  • By definition, all easements interfere with the owner’s use of the area affected by the easement. Our neighbours have demonstrated nothing more than mere inconvenience.
  • The extent of interference by the easement area with our neighbour’s rights of ownership does not warrant the conclusion that the easement is invalid.
  • The easement does not give us a right to erect buildings, it only provides a right for us to replace any existing buildings and maintain them in a state of good repair.
  • The easement does not grant us a right to lock any of the doors on structures on the site of the easement, it merely provides us with a right to keep such doors closed.
  • A turntable was installed in the area in front of the double garage some years ago. While it is not currently operational, our neighbour could choose to repair it. This would allow easy access to the double garage and the laneway.
  • The easement was validly granted 25 years before our current neighbour acquired her property and does not substantially deprive our neighbour of her rights of ownership.
  • Our neighbour retains reasonable use of her property in its entirety. The court should find that the easement is valid and we are able to enforce it.

So, which case won?

Cast your judgment below to find out
Case A Case B

Case B won. You were right!

How people voted
a28%
b72%

Expert commentary on the court's decision

“The court agreed with the arguments of the neighbours, who had the benefit of the easement to park and garage vehicles, that the easement did not deprive the owner of the land the easement was on of her rights or proprietorship or possession in respect of the easement area, or of the balance of her property, on which a two storey house, swimming pool and gardens stood.”
Court finds that the easement to park and garage vehicles is valid and enforceable

In Towers v Stolyar [2017] NSWSC 526, the Supreme Court found that an easement for parking and garaging vehicles was valid. The court found that the rights granted by the easement did not deprive the owner of the land burdened by the easement, Mrs Stolyar, of her rights or proprietorship or possession in respect of the easement area or the balance of her land.

The land was able to be used as a residence and the easement area was able to be accessed and built upon by Mrs Stolyar, subject to the rights contained in the easement.

The court agreed with the arguments for the owners having the benefit of the easement, Mr and Mrs Towers, that the easement for parking and garaging vehicles was valid and capable of being the subject matter of an easement.

Alleged right to build larger structure and lock gates on easement

The court rejected the argument that the terms of the easement conferred a right to the neighbours to build a structure larger, or of a different character, to the structure on the easement that is being replaced.

Similarly, the court rejected the argument that the terms of the easement conferred a right to lock doors or gates to car parking structures so as to prevent use of or access to the structures.

As a result, Mr and Mrs Towers were free to continue utilising the easement for parking and garaging their vehicles.

Court decides not to grant injunction

Mr and Mrs Towers had applied for an injunction restraining their neighbours from interfering with their rights under the easement to park and garage vehicles.

The court decided that the need for such an injunction had been “removed somewhat”, on the assumption that the Stolyars would abide by whatever was decided by the court.

Costs, appeal and more costs

The court determined that the Stolyars were to pay the legal costs incurred by Mr and Mrs Towers in pursuing the legal action in the Supreme Court.

In 2018 the Stolyars appealed the decision in the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of NSW, in Stolyar v Towers [2018] NSWCA 6.

The appeal was dismissed and the right of Mr and Mrs Towers to use the easement for parking and garaging vehicles was upheld again.

Once again, the court decided that the Stolyars were to pay the legal costs incurred by Mr and Mrs Towers.

What began as a simple dispute between neighbours ended up being a very costly legal exercise for one of them.

NOTICE: This article is accurate as at the time of publication and does not constitute legal advice. Please see our legal notices page for more information.
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