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Howell v. Clyde

North Carolina Court of Appeals
493 S.E.2d 323 (1997)


Facts

The Warrens granted Scenic Views, Inc. (Scenic Views) an easement across the Warrens’ property. The easement agreement limited the easement to residential use only. The agreement also specifically said that no trailers, trailer park, campground, shacks, or outside toilets could be erected on the easement property. If the use restrictions were violated, the agreement said the easement “shall be void” and the Warrens or their successors “may re-enter and take possession” of the easement. David Clyde (defendant) acquired the servient estate or underlying property previously owned by the Warrens. Norbert Goode and Myra Mayse acquired the easement or dominant estate previously owned by Scenic Views. When Goode and Mayse began raising goats for commercial purposes and placed a trailer on the dominant estate, Clyde informed Goode and Mayse that the easement was terminated. Clyde then locked the gates at either end of the easement. Raymond Howell (plaintiff) ultimately purchased the dominant estate first owned by Scenic Views and later owned by Goode and Mayse. The parties disagree about whether Howell had notice that Clyde believed the easement was terminated before Howell purchased the property. Howell sued Clyde, seeking an official interpretation of the easement agreement and an order forcing Clyde to allow Howell access to the easement. Clyde claimed that the easement was a defeasible easement, and it had been terminated. Howell replied that any alleged termination was unrecorded. Under a state statute, unrecorded easement creations are invalid if a bona fide purchaser bought the underlying property without notice of the easement’s existence. An easement must be recorded to force a later owner to honor it. Relying on this statute, Howell argued the same thing should apply to easement terminations, and any unrecorded easement termination should be invalid against a later bona-fide purchaser. If so, Howell’s rights in the recorded easement as a bona fide purchaser for value would be superior to Clyde’s right in the unrecorded easement termination. The court found for Howell, and ordered Clyde not to interfere with the recorded easement. Clyde appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (John, J.)

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