Maybe you weren’t initially aware of it, or you were but had since forgotten that when you purchased your property, it came with an easement. Sometimes known as “rights of way,” easements allow another person or entity access to property that is otherwise yours. The easement should be recorded in your local assessor’s office. It’s a good idea to get a copy of it so that you can reference it if there is ever a need.
Many times, the original easement was put in place several transfers of property ago. In fact, it might not even be in use today, although that doesn’t necessarily negate the access rights. Still, access to an easement and the lack thereof can be the tinder that ignites a potential boundary dispute, so it is best to learn about your rights and responsibilities in the matter.
What is the purpose of the easement?
It’s common for utility companies to have rights of way to their equipment which could be located — above ground or buried — on your property. In most cases, this can be something as simple as allowing a meter reader to walk across your yard each month to read the meter. But if a utility line breaks and needs repair, the utility company could have the right to dig up your back yard to fix it. It’s likely that you might have quite a few objections to this.
Can rights-of-way be removed?
In some cases, yes. They may have been from generations ago for reasons that are no longer germane to either party. But to get them removed, both parties must agree.
When neighbors have rights of way to your property
Suppose you have a home that is set quite far back from the road. When the property was originally built, the landowner owned many more acres that, over time, were parceled out and sold to other buyers. Those buyers (and any subsequent purchasers) have the right of way to use your long driveway to gain access to their own properties.
Whose responsibility is it to maintain the easement?
Here is where problems often develop. Typically, the actual owner of the property has the responsibility to maintain it. But, using the above hypothetical situation, suppose that your neighbors with the easement set their trashcans out for pickup. But they are remiss about picking up any remaining scattered trash, which then blows around on your property, necessitating that you must then deal with someone else’s nasty trash.
In situations like the above, often just speaking directly to your neighbor in a civil manner about the problem will be sufficient to get it corrected. But when that fails, a Tyler real estate attorney can assist you with dealing with the dispute before it escalates into a feud.