Missouri courts are clear: a property owner cannot have an easement over his or her own land. This principle was reiterated in a recent Missouri decision, which addressed a unique situation in which a landowner attempted to record an easement burdening one portion of his land for the benefit of another portion. In that case, a developer owned two adjacent residential lots, and both lots shared a driveway which was located entirely on one of the parcels. In an effort to maintain ingress and egress rights for the buyer of the other parcel, the developer recorded an Easement Deed as both the grantor and the grantee.
After the lots were sold, Buyer 1 brought suit against Buyer 2 seeking, among other things, a declaration that the Easement Deed was valid. The trial court held in favor of Buyer 2, finding that the Easement Deed created no easement because the developer owned both parcels of land at the time the Easement Deed was recorded. Buyer 1 appealed.
On appeal, the Missouri appellate upheld the trial court’s decision. In its opinion, the court cited well-established Missouri caselaw holding that a property owner cannot grant himself property rights he already possesses. In this case, the developer already had full access to the burdened lot at the time the Easement Deed was recorded. Hence, the deed was invalid as a matter of law.
In its opinion, the Missouri appellate court did address some important exceptions to the foregoing rule as it applies to land developers. However, the court noted that since the developer failed to follow proper procedures, these exceptions did not apply.
A full copy of the decision by the Missouri Court of Appeal can be found here.