Terminate Easements by Estoppel
Estoppel terminates an easement in circumstances similar to abandonment. But instead of terminating the easement because the dominant tenant has given it up, estoppel terminates the easement because the servient tenant has relied upon the dominant tenant’s conduct that indicates his intent to give it up.
The servient owner must prove the following to establish termination by estoppel:
The dominant tenant indicated that he no longer intended to use the easement, whether by doing the same kinds of things that indicate abandonment or by verbally indicating his intention.
The servient tenant reasonably relied on the dominant tenant’s indications of intent.
The servient tenant’s reliance would cause her to suffer a material detriment if the easement were not terminated.
A typical termination by estoppel occurs when the dominant tenant somehow indicates that he authorizes a substantial improvement by the servient owner that prevents use of the easement.
If the dominant owner doesn’t directly indicate authorization but merely hasn’t been using the easement for a long time and then doesn’t object when the servient owner builds the obstructing improvement, the dominant owner may be estopped if the servient owner’s reliance was reasonable and she would suffer significant enough harm if the easement were not terminated.
In some cases, estoppel terminates an easement only temporarily or partially. For example, if the dominant owner authorized a temporary obstruction of the easement for construction, the dominant owner is estopped from using the easement during the period of construction.
Or if the servient owner partially obstructs the easement in reasonable reliance on the dominant owner’s conduct, the dominant owner can continue to use the easement as far as possible but can’t have the obstruction removed.