What is an easement?

An easement is a legal right given to another entity or person to use or trespass upon land owned by someone else. The permission, privilege, interest, or right granted is usually for a specific, limited purpose, and may be created for continuous use for a certain number of years.

One of the most common reasons for acquiring an easement is when the only way to gain access to your property is through the lot of a neighbor. Other reasons are when utility companies have to access lines or bury cables and when roads are going to be constructed on or through that land.

Terms You’ll Encounter

1. Appurtenant – benefits a particular piece of land
2. In Gross – benefits an individual personally
3. Servient Estate – the land “burdened” by the easement
4. Dominant Estate – the person or land benefited by the easement

Importance of Checking Easements

Before purchasing real estate, make sure to check if there are any easements that go with the property you are planning to buy. You can usually locate where an easement is located on the land by checking the title commitment or title insurance preliminary report. You can also ask to see the assessor’s map to have a more physical view of the locations.

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Knowing where they are located on the lot as well as the details of each easement could save you from facing unwanted legal problems in the future. This is because some easements may have certain specifications, such as not allowing you to construct any permanent structure 10 feet along the west side of your property line. Or it might be specified that you are prohibited from using your neighbor’s lot for any other purpose other than as an access road to your home.

Failure to check and understand the scope of an easement can lead to legal issues. When you are planning to buy property that includes an easement or are planning to create one, it’s best to consult with a real estate lawyer to get expert advice and guidance.

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