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Understanding easements

| Apr 3, 2018 | Blog |

A utility company needs part of your land, and part of your neighbors’ land, too, to build overhead power lines. Meanwhile, a different neighbor wants to cross through your land so he can access a nearby public beach. What is the solution? In both cases, it’s an easement.

An easement provides a person or perhaps a utility with the legal right to use or cross another person’s land for a specific purpose – which must be defined in detail. With an easement, they have the ability to do so without having to buy the property.

How easements work

Easements are often created in a deed or written documents such as wills or contracts. If an easement exists on your property, it normally shows up on the property’s title history. Here are a few things to know about easements:

  • Landowners should be compensated for allowing an easement on their property, but only if they are the ones who granted the easement. If the original owner sells the property, the future owners won’t receive compensation.
  • Even though the property is still yours, typically, a landowner cannot build a permanent structure where an easement runs. For example, constructing a storage shed, swimming pool or a garage would interfere with the easement holder’s rights of usage. If you do so, the owner of the easement could take legal action against you.
  • Sometimes an easement may be in place, but is not being used. As the landowner, you mustn’t think that you can use the land. If an easement is part of the deed, it may still be put to use in the future.
  • Some easements may expire, but those from utility companies often don’t come with expiration dates and are said to “run with the land.” This means the easement will continue even when the land is sold to someone else.

Landowners should peruse all documents related to their property to find out whether an easement may exist. If one does, try to get a better understanding of how it works.

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