As part of our mission to educate and promote awareness of issues affecting the rights of owners, we’re posting the following extract from an article courtesy of the Pacific Legal Foundation, by their Principal Attorney, Paul J. Beard II, provided for your enlightenment and understanding. While it is addressing an issue in California, who knows …
If it were up to the California Coastal Commission, it would seize all private property along the coast tomorrow and make it “public”–without paying a penny to affected landowners. But recognizing that no court would countenance such an open attack on property rights, the Commission instead has been employing a more subtle means of achieving the same result.
Under California’s “prescriptive rights” or “implied dedication” doctrine, if the public regularly traverses an area of private property for a period of at least five years, the public may obtain a permanent “right” to continued use of that area, even without the landowner’s consent. Through its Prescriptive Rights Program, the Commission has made this doctrine one of the most valuable tools in its anti-property-rights arsenal, enabling it to take trails and other easements from landowners, one parcel at a time. The Commission spends taxpayer dollars recruiting members of the public to investigate, document, and report to it all alleged public uses of properties in the coastal zone. If it acquires enough “evidence” that past trespass on someone’s property might support the public’s claim to an easement over that property, the Commission asks the State Attorney General to sue the affected landowner to validate the claim–a costly process that most landowners never see coming, and that few can afford to defend against.
The scheme provides perverse incentives to the public to surreptitiously trespass onto coastal landowners’ properties for extended periods of time, and unfairly burdens property owners with the costly obligation to monitor and defend against so-called prescriptive rights claims.
It is your responsibility and to your benefit to pay attention to your property boundaries!