Homeowner troubled by easement

Q: We want to build an addition on our home but can't get a permit because of an easement on the property. The original purpose of the easement was to provide driveway access to two homes that are situated behind ours, but those properties now have their own driveways. The easement, therefore, is no longer necessary, but it's still recorded against our property. Is there any way it can be removed?

A: If the easement on your property was established for purposes that are no longer necessary, there should be a legal way to have it nullified. To determine the procedures for doing this, consult your local building department or whatever agency regulates easements in your locale. Hopefully, they will accommodate you in a reasonable manner, which unfortunately is not always the case with government bureaucracies, but you never know until you try. If you encounter difficulties, the advice and services of a real estate attorney may be needed.

Also, a little-known method for overcoming bureaucratic intransigence is to complain in person to an elected official. For example, county building officials have been known to become uncharacteristically cooperative when an elected county supervisor calls to say, "Why are you not granting the reasonable request of my constituent?" Having done this more than once, I've found that it usually works.

Q: When we bought our condo, the home inspector said we might have trouble with the dryer vent, and he sure was right. The laundry is located in the middle of our home, in a hall closet; so the dryer has to vent vertically, up through the roof. This causes two problems. The vent becomes clogged with lint, and moisture inside the duct makes a wet stain on the ceiling. Can anything be done to correct this problem?

A: A vertical exhaust vent for a clothes dryer is typically problematic because it acts as a moisture condenser. The sheet metal duct, cooled by the air in the attic, causes the steam from your dryer to liquefy on the inner surfaces of the duct. Then two things happen: First, the water runs down the inside surfaces of the duct, causing wetness and possible mold wherever leakage occurs (such as your ceiling); and second, the moisture in the duct tends to collect lint, which forms an increasingly thick layer on the vent surface, thereby reducing the efficiency of your dryer. Vertical dryer vents should probably be prohibited by code, but unfortunately, they are not.

The problem originated when the designer of the building selected an impractical location for the laundry. The solution is to relocate your dryer to the garage or another area that is near an exterior wall. Then the dryer vent can be a short, horizontal duct, less prone to condensation and lint buildup. Otherwise, you may have to make the best of a bad arrangement. For alternate solutions, an appliance repair technician may be able to determine a practical upgrade, based upon an on-site inspection of your situation.

• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.

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