Is there a path with ancient tire tracks or what looks like an old a dirt or gravel road or undeveloped right of way near your land? Perhaps just a simple path through the trees between you and your neighbor’s yard? Have you or someone else in your neighborhood learned of a plan of land or survey or town map that depicts a road or path but it doesn’t physically exist on the ground? Maybe the issue came up when a neighbor started arguing with you; claiming a right of way to travel over or on a path through your property, where the path is the boundary between your parcel and his or hers? Land titles on the North Shore and throughout Massachusetts go back hundreds of years. There are paths and ways, discontinued streets and narrow roads carved between parcels as the developers created subdivisions. It is not uncommon to find sub-division plans where a narrow swath is between lots and never sold or conveyed by the old owner (even after all of the lots have been sold off). In many circumstances this creates a private way, right of way or paper street.
When that occurs: who owns it, who has rights to use the path, and for what purpose? The answers often require a title examination and analysis of Massachusetts case law and statutes. One law to consider is Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 183 s. 58, also known as the “Derelict Fee Statute”.