Utah appeals court upholds homeowner rights in easement dispute

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December 12, 2023 — Friday, the Utah Court of Appeals upheld a homeowner’s right to make improvements on his property, despite it being part of an easement for the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake and SandyOpens in a new tab.. The conflict began when the homeowner, whose backyard falls within a 125-foot easementOpens in a new tab., made several additions including a shed, hot tub, deck, and landscaping.

The Water District claimed these additions violated their easement regulations and hindered their pipeline maintenance. They insisted that the homeowner should have sought permission before making these changes. However, a jury found that these improvements did not significantly impede the District’s easement use.

The District appealed, contesting the jury instructions, the jury’s decision and the testimony of an engineer who supported the homeowner. They also proposed a strict legal rule, suggesting any permanent structure within an easement should be automatically deemed unreasonable.

Judge Ryan Harris, writing for the court, disagreed with this rigid approach, highlighting the importance of “mutual reasonableness” in easement law. He noted that such a strict rule would unjustly restrict reasonable land use. The court also confirmed the jury’s verdict, stating that the outcome would likely be the same even if the cumulative impact of the improvements was considered. The engineer’s testimony was deemed acceptable, countering the District’s view that “reasonableness” should only apply to the homeowner’s actions.

Read the decision here:  Metropolitan Water District v. SorfOpens in a new tab. (2023 UT App 146).


Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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