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Published on Friday, November 27, 2015 by Land Century

Before you purchase a piece of property, there are several things that need to be considered. Property easement is one of those things.

For those who are unaware, an easement is the legal right to use another person’s land for a specific purpose. For example, the electric company may have an easement to run electrical wires across your property. While you may be the owner of the property (your name is on the deed), the electric company will have the right to use a portion of your property for its lines.

Easements will not change when the property is sold. Any subsequent owners of the property will be required to allow whoever owns the easement to continue using the property. There are a variety of different easements that land may have.

Types of Property Easement



Private Easement

Property owners may sell a private easement to someone else. The easement may be used for sewer access, or as a path or driveway. It’s not uncommon for private sewer easements to be sold when a house is built up hill, so pipes running from the home to the street can slant properly.

If you’re considering land with private easements, it’s essential to get copies of the actual easement documents. This ensures that you fully understand where the easements are located and what uses are permitted. Some private easements can cause issues. For example, if your neighbor is granted a solar access easement, you may be severely limited as far as what you can build or grow on your property because you will not be able to block sunlight to your neighbor’s solar collectors. Without knowing the terms of such an easement, it could be very easy to interfere with these rights and face legal issues as a result.

Utility Easement

Utility easements are the most common type of easement found on properties, and they are typically given in writing to the city or utility company. In some cases, utility easements are described in a property deed or the title certificate. This type of easement typically does not have much of an effect on the property on a day-to-day basis. You can do pretty much anything you want with the property provided that it does not interfere with the utility company’s easement rights.

Utility company will be able to tell you where utility easements are located on your piece of land. You also have the option of visiting the county land records office and asking the clerk to show you a map of easement locations on your property. In addition, you can also determine the location of these easements through a land survey.

Prescriptive Easements

Prescriptive easements are typically created when another person requires the use of your property for access, such as a shortcut, driveway or beach path. This type of easement can be acquired by using another person’s property openly and continuously for an extended period of time. Each state has its own required length for a prescriptive easement be granted, but is typically 10 or 20 years.

If you don’t mind other people using your property, but do not wish to give them legal right to do so, you can avoid a prescriptive easement being granted by offering written permission to use the property. For example, if you give your neighbor written permission to park on your property, your neighbor will no longer be able to claim an easement by prescription because he or she is no longer a trespasser.

Easement by Necessity

An easement by necessity is typically not written down, and is usually granted when it’s absolutely necessary to cross another person’s land for a legitimate purpose. For example, if you need to cross someone else’s land to access your home, an easement by necessity may be granted. If the only way to access a piece of land is by crossing through your property, the law will recognize an easement and allow others to access their property by crossing over your land.

If a piece of land is subject to this type of easement, you will not be able to interfere with your neighbors legal right to cross your property to access theirs.

Easement Creation

In most cases, easements are created by transference in a deed, or they may be granted through a contract or will. Like any other interests in land, the easement must be documented, signed and delivered properly. In extreme cases, a court will create an easement by implying the easement already existed based on extenuating circumstances. While most easements are permanent, there are certain circumstances were easement rights may be granted for a limited duration. A great example of this is when a home or other structure is being built. The property owner may grant their neighbor access to their land until construction is completed.

Avoiding Easement Disputes

As a land owner, you do not have the right to interfere with a legal easement. Let’s say the electric company strung wires across your property and has been granted the right to do so, you are not allowed to take down these wires or block the path of these wires. Interfering with an easement can make you liable to the owner of the easement for damages, and you may be ordered by the court to stop interfering.

If the court determines that you, as a property owner, are unduly burdened by a granted easement, the easement owner’s use of the property may be restricted, or the easement may be extinguished altogether.

When buying land, it’s important to understand what type of easements are on the property, and who owns them. You also want to make sure that you obtain copies of the actual easement documents, so you understand exactly how the property can be used. If you find yourself facing a legal dispute over easements or believe someone is using your property inappropriately, it’s beneficial to consult with a real state attorney who has experience with these types of cases. Easement laws can be complex, and you want to ensure that you have a legal professional that understands the laws guide you through the process of defending or asserting a claim.
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