Trust No. 6011, Lake Cy Trust Co. v Heil’s Haven Condominiums Homeowners Ass’n (IN)

Summary:  The plain language of the easement governs despite practical indications that might suggest otherwise.

Trust No. 6011, Lake Cy Trust Co. v Heil’s Haven Condominiums Homeowners Ass’n, 967 NE2d 6 (Ind. Ct. App., 2012).

Facts: Simon and Victoria Beemsterboer live on property (Beemsterboer property) owned by Trust No. 6011, Lake County Trust Company (Beemsterboer), for which Victoria was the beneficiary. Adjacent to that property was Heil’s Haven Condominiums. The Beemsterboers’ and the condominium properties were once a single property owned by James and Jane Fry. The parcels were split, and one was eventually sold to Heil’s Haven Condominium Homeowners Association (association). 

When the condominiums were developed, several agreements and easements were issued between the association and Fry. There were four agreements/easements, titled as follows: (I) the Cross License Agreement, which encompassed the use of a water pump and sidewalk (the Water and Walkway easement); (II) the septic system shared (the Septic easement); (III) the Replacement Walkway easement, which existed when “the current License for ingress and egress to the lakefront of the Heil’s Haven [Condominiums] no longer exists and at such time the [replacement walkway area] may be used for installation of a concrete sidewalk to be used by owners of Units in the Heil’s Haven Condominiums or their guests,”; and (IV) the Encroachment easement, which permitted the Association to maintain a deck that encroached upon the Beemsterboer property. This last easement was based upon a survey that depicted the easement in a slightly different location than that in the agreement.

The Cross License Agreement stated the following: (1) the use of the sidewalk is confined to the present uses and for the present lack of access; (2) the use of the pump is confined to the present uses of the present building; (3) should the water lines fail to the extent that a water supply is not available to the Beemsterboer property, the Cross License Agreement and all rights granted hereunder shall terminate; and (4) that the licenses granted may be terminated by agreement of the parties, or shall do so automatically as described above.

Prior to the Beemsterboers’ acquisition of the property, the property was owned by Garry Bickel. During Bickel’s ownership, the property and the water lines to the pump and utility house reference in the Water and Walkway Easement were destroyed. Bickel rebuilt the residence with its own water supply and a sidewalk for the condominium owners to use not realizing the sidewalk extended farther than the Water and Walkway Easement provided. Bickel sold the property to Beemsterboer who intended to install a fence along the common borderline.  This fence would enclose one of the septic tanks contained in the Septic Easement. The Beemsterboers informed the association of their intent to build the fence. The Beemsterboers also began building a staircase. While building, they removed a portion of the edge of the sidewalk which was installed by Bickel but was not included in the original Water and Walkway Easement.

The association filed suit seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions against the Beemsterboers and seeking to enjoin them from constructing the fence and continuing the staircase.  The trial court held that the Beemsterboers were: (1) enjoined from building a fence which blocks access for the septic easement; (2) required to remove the staircase and repair the portions of the sidewalk; (3) enjoined from interfering with the association’s use of the sidewalk Bickel built; and (4) enjoined from interfering with the association’s deck despite it varying slightly from the description in the Encroachment Easement. The Beemsterboers appealed.

Holding: Affirmed in part and reversed in part. The language of the Cross License Agreement clearly stated that all the rights terminate in Cross License Agreement the event that the water lines fail and not just the Water Easement. This reading was bolstered by the language stating that the licenses granted shall terminate automatically if the above described events happen.  For those reasons, the court found that the water rights as well as the ingress and egress rights contained in the Water and Walkway Easement were terminated. However the Replacement Walkway easement granted the association an easement to install a concrete sidewalk for the purposes of ingress and egress, but this does not require the removal of the staircase. The court further held that building a fence and allowing the association access to the septic tank did not materially impair or unreasonably interfere with the use of the easement.  The court of appeals upheld the ban on interfering with the deck despite it being a little outside the original grant.

Opinion Year: 
By: ATG Underwriting Department | Posted on: Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:55am