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Neighbor bluntly stated he would NOT remove a pile of brush from a 20 ft wide alley which now blocks access to my garage. Help?

Frederick, MD |

We have owned a house for over 20 years in a town established in the early 1900's. There are alleys behind the two streets in town. We are one lot from the end. The corner lot owner regularly parks vehicles in the alley (not part of any lot) but he moved them in the past when we said we needed access (while we were living there). Two months ago he dumped a big pile of brush blocking vehicular access to our garage/backyard. We are currently renting the house out and the tenants don't care about access to the alley but we needed to remove an appliance and when we went to gain access to the back and couldn't I asked him to move the pile of brush. He said he wasn't going to and he was going to annex that part of the alley into his lot because he's maintained it for 21 years. Can he do that?

We live in Maryland. I think the county owns the land but am not sure. It shows up on the same plot record of ownership as the streets. The residents all mow the alley behind their houses. He put down gravel behind his part. We are the main ones that accessed the alley with a vehicle and regularly used it with our vehicles in 2009-2010. He would reluctantly move his equipment and vehicles when he blocked access during that time. This is the first time he has refused to move his stuff and declared his intent to 'annex'. Argh! Any advice?

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Attorney answers 2

Best Answer

There is a concept in real estate law called adverse possession. Each state has different ideas about how it works, but generally one must make it clear that one is taking control over a certain portion of land, making it clear to all observers of that intent, and keeping everyone else out. There is a certain period of time during which this must be maintained before one can then file a lawsuit to obtain title over that portion of land, and take it legally from another private party. The reason behind this law is that it allows people who want to use property and gain value from it, to actually take the property and then put it to good use. This maximizes the value of land. But this is normally done to acquire private property land, not publicly owned property. Another issue here is whether or not you have a right to use the alley based on an easement. There are various legal issues here that should be reviewed by an attorney. Pay for a consultation or two to get the answers you need, unless you are willing to give up your rights to using this alley to access the back of your property. Before you spend any money on this, be sure to analyze whether this is worth the thousands of dollars it will take to litigate this in the courts. If it is not worth it, then don't bother wasting your time and money. If it is worth it, then do not delay, because delay will only damage your rights to do anything.

This answer is designed to provide general information only, does not constitute legal advice and does not establish an attorney/client relationship. I am an attorney licensed in Maryland and California. A consultation and retainer will be required if you would like to obtain my representation. Office: (410) 381-1656. David Mahood, Esq.


You need to gather a few more facts, such as have a lawyer who practices real estate and property law research the land records to establish who owns the alleyway, and whether there are any easements or right-of-ways associated with its use which appear as covenants against the corner lot owner's land (if in fact the alleyway crosses any part of his property). You can file an action against the corner lot owner to enforce your access rights and to have a judgment declared regarding your legal rights. Because you and others have used the alley way within the past 20 years, it seems unlikely that the corner lot owner could succeed in an adverse possession lawsuit to claim the property, as that would require exclusive and openly notorious claim to the alley way for 20 straight years (exclusive as in, nobody else used it). Hiring a lawyer to file a court action may be expensive, but abandoning the alley way access may also diminish the value of your property.