Understanding Easements on Title to Real Estate

In today’s real estate market, real estate purchase and sale transactions are quite common. I have had several clients recently ask the question “should I be concerned with the easement on title to the property I’m purchasing?'” This is a very prudent question because certain easements can significantly impact the value and use of property they are attached to.
An easement is a right of use over the property of another. In other words, when someone is granted an easement, he or she is granted the legal right to use the property, but the legal title to the property remains with the owner.

When an easement shows up in a title search of real property, I advise my clients to obtain a copy of the recorded easement. The easement purpose should be reviewed and its impact on the property evaluated. There are many types of easements, but some common examples include:

Easement by necessity.

This is when an easement is required for some reason. For example, if your property was completely landlocked with no public access and the only way to get to your land was by crossing over your neighbor’s property, an easement by necessity would exist to give you access to the public road over your neighbor’s property.

Utility easement.

Utility companies sometimes need to access properties for city or county approved purposes. For instance, a utility company may need to perform maintenance on overhead electric. telephone or cable lines, or another example might be a utility company may need to replace underground sewer lines in your yard. Whatever the reason, this easement allows utility workers to access your property without having to obtain your permission each time work is performed.

Private easement.

This is when one landowner sells access to a section of their property, like a pathway. to another so they can accomplish an action, like get to a water well. It can also exist to prevent a landowner from doing something, such as removing a section of trees that conceals one property from another. This type of easement should be placed on a property’s land title (the document that identifies a property’s location, ownership, and more), which ensures that an easement can be purchased (or sold) without being overridden when the property transfers to a new owner in the future.

Once you have discovered an easement exists on your prospective property and the purpose of the easement has been determined, other issues must be considered such as whether or not the easement prevents you from building on or occupying certain areas of the property, or whether or not you can build a gate or block certain areas of the property. Hiring an experienced real estate attorney to evaluate any exceptions to title such as easements can be instrumental in understanding existing and future property rights as well as your ability to utilize the property as you intend.