Featured News 2013 The Most Common Types of Easements

The Most Common Types of Easements

An easement means that someone has a specific, limited right of ownership or access to another person's property. This could look something like the water company having an easement to put water pipes under your land. You are the owner of the property, but the easement means that the water company has a specific claim on part of this land. Now if you sell the property to someone else, this easement would still be intact, without change. Easements are unrelated to changes in title. So if you want to buy a home, you need to look into whether there are any easements on the property. Keep reading to get a breakdown of some of the most common easements.

Utility easements. This is the easement you are likeliest to uncover, a written easement that gives rights to a utility company or the city. If you want to know which parts of your property have these easements, you can reach your utility company, or you can visit the county land records office or city hall. This is information you might need to know if you want to plant or build something on your property.

Private easements. You definitely do not want any of these to creep up on you. They can definitely affect what you are able to do on your property. Such easements are more common for a home where another house is being built uphill from it. Maybe someone else's sewer pipes need to go right under your property. It is also possible that a previous owner sold a private easement that allows someone else to cross a portion of their property as a pathway or driveway. As another example, if a neighbor has solar panels, they might have a solar access easement, meaning that you cannot build a structure or plant anything that obstructs the sunlight from reaching their solar collectors. If you violate a private easement, even on accident, you could be on the hook for any damage caused.

Easements by necessity. The tricky thing with these easements is that they might not be set in writing. This could be a situation where someone else has to go over your land to get to their house. Since people have the right to reach their homes, they can access your land to do so if that is the only way to get to their property.

Prescriptive Easements. While similar to adverse possession, this is a different matter. (Adverse possession is when a trespasser becomes the legal owner of part of a property by inhabiting/using it for a long enough span.) Prescriptive easements usually allow someone to use your property within a prescribed time frame, and they usually entail legally encroaching on your property to make a pathway of some sort. Depending on a state's laws, a prescriptive easement will usually last ten or twenty years (and yes, it is the same timeframe as for adverse possession). But people who have a prescriptive easement will not pay property taxes, whereas some trespassers would have to under adverse possession. Additionally, more than one person can have a prescriptive easement to the same area, such as with a commonly shared shortcut through your land.

If you are okay with someone using your land in this way, but you do not want them to have the legal right to this access, then you give that person permission in writing to park their car there, or create a path, for example. Your neighbor gets to use your land, but they do not get an easement. Future neighbors would not be able to claim a right to this easement then either.

You would definitely benefit from the assistance of a real estate attorney if you run into snags involving easements. For example, when you bought a new house, you may not have known that your neighbor had an easement to your driveway, and you might think that they are trespassing. Trickier still, your neighbor's easement may not be in writing. If you violate someone's easement, such as by removing electrical wires that run over your land or shading your neighbor's yard, then you could be brought to court and held responsible for paying for any related damage. If the easement is an unwritten one, then this poses an especially complicated issue, one in which you do not want to be without a legal expert, one who knows the laws in your county and state. To find the answers you need for any easement issue, consult a real estate attorney today!

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