The term “easement” and “license” are sometimes used indiscriminately by both parties to the license and the Courts. However, an easement and license are rights that can be clearly distinguished. In this article, our Los Angles based easement attorneys discuss the difference between an easement and a license based on the law and our experience litigating these issues.
As we discussed in our previous posts, an easement creates an intangible interest in real property that is subject to the statute of frauds and is protectable, irrevocable, and compensable. (Elliott v. McCombs (1941) 17 Cal.2d 23, 30; Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority v. Continental Development Corp. (1997) 16 Cal.4th 694, 714-715.)
In contrast, a license does not create or convey any interest or estate in real property. Instead, a license gives authority to a licensee to perform an act or acts on the property of another pursuant to the express or implied permission of the owner. As such, the licensee has a personal privilege but does not possess either an interest or right in the land or any estate in the property. (Golden West Baseball Co. v. City of Anaheim (1994) 25 Cal.App.4th 11, 36.) Accordingly, a licensee cannot bring an action in trespass or ejectment. At most, he or she may be able to maintain an action to enjoin or redress a violation of the right to exercise the license. (Nahas v. Local 905, Retail Clerks Assn. (1956) 144 Cal.App.2d 808, 819.)
Another way a license can be distinguished form an easement is with respect to compensation. Specifically, unlike an easement, a license is not a right that is compensable in condemnation proceedings. (Belmont County Water Dist. v. State of California (1976) 65 Cal.App.3d 13, 17.)
Finally, unlike an easement, a license is not within the statute of frauds; it can be created either by a written conveyance or by mere oral agreement. (Miler & Lux v. Kern County Land Co. (1908) 154 Cal.785, 788.) It can also arise by implication from the acts of the parties, from their relations, or from custom. Thus, where a landowner knowingly permits another to perform acts on his or land repeatedly, a license may be implied from his or her failure to object. (See Lusk v. Krejci (1960) 187 Cal.App.2d 553, 555.)
Notwithstanding the foregoing, in certain limited situations, the rights of a license may give rise to rights akin to an easement. In my next post, I will discuss situations where this can happen.
Schorr Law has experience analyzing license and easement issues related to all types of licenses and easements. For a free consultation, please call (310) 954-1877 or email Stephanie Goldstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.