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Real Estate – Easement Interpretation

WI Court of Appeals – District III

Case Name: Arvo Eilau v. Dennis Roff

Case No.: 2021AP000396

Officials: Gill, J

Focus: Real Estate – Easement Interpretation

Roff appeals from an order declaring as ambiguous an easement for ingress and egress over his property to permit Arvo Eilau and Joyce Dzik (collectively, “Eilau”) access to an island they own that is located offshore from Roff’s property. In addition to challenging the circuit court’s conclusion regarding ambiguity, Roff argues that the court made clearly erroneous factual findings surrounding the historical use of the easement when it ruled that the intent of the easement was to allow the owners of an island to drive vehicles across the entirety of his property to a boat dock and to park for an unspecified period of time. Roff further argues the court erred by ordering that Eilau can install gravel on the easement.

Roff’s contention that the easement is unambiguous is correct. The court further concluded that the text of the easement provides for Eilau’s vehicular traffic across Roff’s property to the boat dock. It does not, however, permit parking at the boat dock. Applying general easement principles, the court also conclude that the easement permits Eilau to turn vehicles around at the boat dock, and that Eilau is responsible for part of the easement’s maintenance, but that Eilau cannot install gravel on the easement without unreasonably burdening Roff.

Affirmed in part and reversed in part.

Decided 10/25/22

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