This question came before Division One of the Washington State Court of Appeals in the matter of Buck Mountain Owners’ Association v. Glenn Prestwich and Barbara Bentley, with the court holding that if there is not an agreement as to the allocation of maintenance costs, then the users of the easement must share road maintenance costs.
In Buck Mountain, a 10 mile roadway was maintained by an owners association. In addition to providing access to the properties of Association members, the road also provided access to properties that were outside the Association’s boundaries and whose owners were therefore not bound by the Association’s CCR’s (“non-members”). The Association regularly billed non-members for a portion of the road maintenance costs and when Prestwich-Bentley, non-members, refused to pay, the Association sued them.
The critical issue or problem in the Buck Mountain case is that the roadway was created by a written easement agreement, but the agreement did not allocate responsibility for maintaining the easement. Prestwich-Bentley, in reliance on the statute of frauds – a rule that generally requires any agreement pertaining to land be contained in a notarized writing, argued that because there was nothing in writing as to cost allocation, they were not required to contribute.
In its ruling, the Washington Court of Appeals, in reliance upon a 1948 Washington case, Bushy v. Weldon, 30 Wn.2d 266, 191 P.2d 302 (1948), as well as several non-Washington cases, held that a court may impose an equitable road maintenance obligation on joint users of an access easement.
This holding should assist Association’s who maintain roadways that provide access to parcels outside of their boundaries recoup a fair portion of the road maintenance costs.
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