What Is an Easement in Real Estate?
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An easement is an arrangement granting one person or group—known as the easement holder—the right to access the property of another person or group. Whether or not the property owner approves of someone else being on their property, an easement is legally binding, and as long as a person follows the rules set in place by the easement, they can continue to use the property. Here’s an overview of how easements work.
Key points from this article:
- Definition and Purpose – An easement grants a person or group (the easement holder) the legal right to access another person's property. This access is binding and must be adhered to based on the rules set by the easement.
- Types of Easements – There are various types of easements, including utility easements, driveway easements, conservation easements, and public easements. This article gives detailed information on each. Each type serves a specific purpose, such as allowing utility companies to access a property or ensuring natural resources are protected.
- Easement Maintenance and Duration – Typically, the easement holder is responsible for maintaining the easement. Most easements are perpetual, lasting indefinitely, but some are term easements with a specified duration.
- Impact on Property Value – While easements generally don't decrease property value, strict terms might deter potential buyers. However, companies like AMI buy homes regardless of existing easements, offering an alternative to the traditional market.
Disclaimer – The information on this page is intended for general informational purposes only and not to provide legal advice.
What is an example of an easement?
One common type of easement is a utility easement. A utility easement gives a utility company permission to access a person’s yard so that the utility workers can do their jobs. This easement may become relevant if the utility company needs to access underground lines on a person’s property or trim a tree that is getting in the way of telephone lines.
Can a property owner block an easement being issued?
Whether or not you can block an easement from being attached to your property depends largely on whether the easement is affirmative or negative. An affirmative easement grants the holder access to a property, while a negative easement prevents the property owner from using the land in a certain way. Affirmative easements can be blocked in some cases, but negative easements usually cannot be blocked.
What types of easements are there?
Different types of easements include:
- Easement appurtenant: an easement that is attached directly to a plot of land rather than a person or group.
- Easement in gross: an easement granted to a specific person or group who cannot transfer it over to anyone else.
- Perpetual easement: an easement that lasts forever.
- Non-exclusive easement: an easement that provides property access to multiple parties.
- Ingress/egress easement: an easement allowing the holder to enter and exit a property.
- Right of way easement: an easement that allows the holder to pass through a plot of land in order to access an adjacent plot of land.
- Driveway easement: an easement allowing the holder to use the driveway on a property.
- Prescriptive easement: an easement acquired through adverse possession.
- Conservation easement: an easement granted to a nonprofit or government organization to ensure that the natural resources on a piece of land are protected.
- Drainage easement: an easement granted to a municipality or similar organization to maintain drainage.
- Utility easement: an easement enabling a utility company to access a property to maintain utility lines.
- Road easement: an easement that allows the holder to construct a road on a property.
- Pipeline easement: an easement that allows the holder to build a pipeline on a property.
- Slope easement: an easement that allows the holder to construct a slope on a property.
- Water easement: an easement providing the holder with access to water lines or other water sources on a property.
- Public easement: an easement that grants the general public the right to use a plot of land.
What is a deed of easement?
A deed of easement is a written agreement outlining the rules of an easement. Having a deed on record is a good idea because it prevents any ambiguity later on about how the easement holder is and is not permitted to use your land.
Who is responsible for easement maintenance?
The responsibility to maintain an easement generally lies with the easement holder, except in cases where the property owner failing to maintain the easement would interfere with the easement holder’s use of the property. If there are multiple easement holders for one property, maintenance costs are split among them.
Does title insurance cover easements?
If an easement has been recorded, it will be listed in your title report, and your title insurance policy will be required to cover it. If your title company fails to provide coverage for a recorded easement, they will be required to either fix their mistake or provide you with financial compensation.
Does homeowners insurance cover easements?
Most homeowners insurance policies only cover the loss or damage of tangible property. Easements are not considered to be tangible property, and as such, they are not typically covered under homeowners insurance. Of course, it’s always best to check the fine print of your insurance policy to be sure of what is and is not covered.
Can you build on an easement?
While an easement will not typically explicitly prevent you from building items like pools, fences, decks, and sheds, this is not an advisable course of action. If these items get in the way of the easement holder’s use of the property, you may be asked to remove them, rendering all of the work you put into building them pointless.
Can you trespass on an easement?
When an easement holder enters the property which they hold an easement for, it is not considered to be trespassing as long as they adhere to the guidelines of the easement. However, if the easement holder uses the property in a way that is not permitted under the easement—such as entering a house when the easement only grants them access to the yard—this is trespassing and may be grounds for termination.
Are easements recorded on deeds?
While most easements are recorded, not all of them are. Sometimes this is the result of negligence on the part of the easement holder. Other times, an easement that was recorded in the past will get lost over the years. It’s especially common for easements to get lost after a property changes hands.
How long does an easement last?
Most easements are perpetual, meaning that they last forever. However, some easements are term easements, meaning that they only last for a specified number of years. Term easements are most commonly used when the easement holder only needs to access a property for a brief period of time to do some sort of work on it.
How do you find easement information on a property?
If an easement is recorded, you can find it by asking your county courthouse for your property deed. However, just because no easements show up on your deed doesn’t mean that there isn’t an unrecorded easement attached to your property. You can find unrecorded easements by having a survey done on your property.
Can you obtain an easement on someone else's property?
If you use another person’s property for a set period of time, you can obtain an easement for it. This use must be open and continuous, meaning that you have made no attempt to hide your use of the property from the owner and you have used the property for the entire statutory period set by your state without any breaks.
Can you remove an easement from your property?
There are a few different ways for an easement to be removed from a property. In some cases, an easement will expire automatically after a certain amount of time passes or the easement holder no longer needs to access the property. You may also be able to remove an easement by filing a quiet title action.
Do easements on a property transfer to new owners?
Most easements are easements appurtenant, which means that they are attached to the land itself and will transfer over when a property is sold. However, easements in gross are attached to a person or group, and they will expire when the easement holder stops using the property or passes away.
Can an easement be revoked or terminated?
In some cases, an easement holder may decide that they no longer have any use for a property. The easement holder can then sign a release agreement to terminate the easement and revoke their right to use the property.
Does an easement devalue a property?
While easements do not typically decrease property value, easements with strict terms that the property owner must adhere to may be unappealing to buyers. If you’re looking to sell a home with an easement attached to it, consider selling to AMI. We buy homes in all conditions and can save you the trouble of finding a buyer on the traditional market. Contact us today for a no-obligation cash offer.