Does Your Property Have An Easement On It? How To Find Out

What Is Easement Information?

Before we get into it, let’s have a quick recap for those in the room that need it! An easement allows a third party the right to use your property for a particular reason.

Easement information will include the information about this, usually stating who the third party is and what purpose they are entering your property is. 

Easements can include a third party passing the property on foot, or with vehicles. It can also be a right to pass for utility services and can include access through your property, over or under it.

It can also allow neighbors access to your property when needed to carry out repairs on their property.

For example, this could be to reach a part of their roof to carry out repairs or fix a wall boundary between the two properties. 

It is important to note that although an easement provides another party with access to your property, it does not allow them to prevent you from occupying or using your property unless it interferes with the easement.

The third-party will also not have exclusive use of your property.

Generally speaking, easements are usually for maintenance, utility, or emergency access. It usually refers to your garden or yard too, rather than someone walking through your bedroom! 

You can find out more about the easement in the easement information. Easement information will explain in detail what the easement for your property is.

It will detail which part of the property is accessible and if there are any limitations caused by this.

For example, it might mean not planting shrubs in one part of your garden, or keeping your driveway clear.

The information will also state who has access to your property, so you must read your easement information. 

When purchasing a property, you should be informed if there is an easement on the property. It’s best to get as much information as possible to help you determine if you should purchase the property or not.

Finding out more about the easement will inform you if the easement is a burden or not and allow you to decide if the property is right for you. A real estate agent or the current owner of the property should be able to provide you with this information.

Once you own the property, it is up to you to make yourself aware of the easement and understand all the information relating to the easement. 

Now that we have covered what an easement is, let’s move on and find out where you can find this information. 

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Other Types of Easements

There are some other types of easements that give certain entities the right to engage in certain activities on land:

  • Utility easements
  • Prescriptive easements
  • Easement by necessity
  • Private easements
  • Stormwater management or development easements

Utility easements are the most common type of easement. These give utility companies the right to use a certain portion of the property for utility purposes.

Prescriptive easements are created when someone has been using a portion of your land without your permission. This gives them the right to keep using your land, as long as the length of use meets certain requirements.

Time Each state has its own laws about prescriptive easements. The statutory time limit could last between 10 and 20 years.

An easement by necessity occurs when someone has a legal right to use a section of your land, as long as there is a valid need for it. This often happens when there's a home or property with no direct access to a road, except through another property.

In the example above, Ms. Smith granted Mr. Scott a private easement. Private easements are often, but not always, sold to another landowner for use.

A housing development might possess an easement that allows it to build and maintain a water-storage facility, or it might be allowed to maintain a waste-management system.

How Might Prescriptive Easements Affect My Property Ownership Rights?

Someone can acquire an easement over another’s land for a particular purpose (such as accessing their own home) by using someone else’s property openly and continuously for a set period of time. This is called a prescriptive easement, and typically one is created when someone uses land for access, such as a driveway or beach path or shortcut.

The length of use required for a prescriptive easement varies from state to state and is often the same (ten or 20 years) as for adverse possession (which is when someone acquires legal ownership of land by occupying it).

While prescriptive easements and adverse possession might be the same in terms of length of use required, there are important differences. For example, payment of property taxes is not necessary for a successful prescriptive easement claim, while some states require a trespasser to pay property taxes to obtain legal ownership.

Also, to acquire a prescriptive easement, a trespasser does not need to be the only one using the land. More than one person can acquire a prescriptive easement in the same portion of land—an example would be a driveway on another’s land or a path people use as a shortcut.

If you don’t mind someone using part of your property but don’t want that person to gain the legal right to do so, the simplest way to prevent a prescriptive easement is to grant the person written permission to use the property. For example, if your neighbor is parking his car on a small strip of your property and you give him permission to do so, your neighbor is no longer a trespasser, and he can’t claim an easement by prescription. Giving permission to a current user also prevents people who move in later from claiming that they inherited a prescriptive easement.

To find your state’s law on prescriptive easements, look up “easements” in the index to your state statutes. To understand how the courts in your state have interpreted different requirements, you might also want to check your state’s court decisions on prescriptive easements.

What Are The Different Types Of Easements?

There are many different types of easements, and each one can mean different things for your home. Here’s an overview of the four different types of easements you’ll commonly encounter.

Utility Easements

A utility easement is created by state or local law, and it gives utility employees the right to access infrastructure located on private properties. Utility easements are sometimes categorized as affirmative easements because they give the utility company legal access to your property, but only for a specific use. When you purchase a new home, it’s common to find preexisting utility easements on the property.

While this may sound like a troublesome situation, utility easements are beneficial to most homeowners.  If you want your home to have running water, electricity, cable and sewer systems, then you’ll need a utility company to manage these services.

When there’s a problem, your utility company will need to access your cables or sewer system to make repairs. This type of easement doesn’t give utility companies free rein to do whatever they want on your property. However, they may be able to install new equipment as long as it’s for the good of the community. This is legal regardless of whether you agree with their decision to make changes.

Some utility easements can even put limits on what you can do with your property. For instance, you may be prevented from planting trees or installing any equipment that could interfere with local power lines.

Private Easements

Private easements are property rights that can be created and sold or given by the property owner to another party. For instance, let’s say your neighbor wants to access your land to install solar panels. You have the right to either grant access or refuse to sell a private easement.

Where private easements become tricky is when they have the potential to affect future homeowners. For example, if you grant your neighbor a private easement, this can affect anyone you sell the home to in the future. That’s why it’s always a good idea to check if there are any private easements on a property before buying a home.

Private easements may not be a problem, but depending on the terms, they can limit what you’re able to do with your property. Private easements should be listed on the title.

Easements By Necessity

Easements by necessity are created for those situations when another individual must access your property. These will sometimes be called access easements and are created because of the government’s long-standing interest in making the land productive.

An example would be living in a rural area and your neighbor is landlocked and can only access the road by crossing your property. In this situation, an easement by necessity would be created, and your neighbor would have the right of way.

You don’t have the right to stop this type of easement because it would cause an unnecessary burden to your neighbor. You’d be negatively impacting your neighbor’s right to access the main road.

Prescriptive Easements

A prescriptive easement is a property right granted to someone who doesn’t own the underlying property. The easement is created because the non-owner had already been using the property in a hostile, open and notorious manner for a period of time as defined by the laws of the property’s state.

Suppose that your neighbor starts parking in your driveway without your permission. You don’t stop them, and they continue to do it year after year. As unfair as it may seem, by illegally accessing your property, they can gain a right to access it. That’s because the court could see your failure to stop them as an act of concession on your part.

If you feel like someone’s repeatedly trespassing on your property, it’s essential to act quickly. Failure to act could result in the court granting your neighbor a prescriptive easement to access a portion of your property.

What happens if you build on an easement?

Generally, you can build on easements as long as the building doesn't interfere with the purpose of the easement. You may need to seek permission before building or even digging in a utility easement, though, so be sure you check with any interested parties to avoid any issues.

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