Easements & How They Affect Your Property
As a homeowner, the idea of a stranger on your property can be unnerving. Occasionally, homeowners are subject to an easement without their direct knowledge.
What is an easement?
An easement is a legal right of way granted to a particular individual or entity to cross, enter, and/or use another’s land for a specific purpose. An easement held by you allows you to access a particular portion of land that you do not own. Three common reasons for an easement are access to another's property, as in the case of a landlocked piece of land, the installation and maintenance of natural gas pipelines and other utilities, and the installation and maintenance of sewer lines.
Properties with easements are referred to as “servient estates.” Servient landowners are generally allowed to do as they wish with their property, so long as it doesn’t hinder the easement holder from using the easement for its designated purpose. For example, if another neighboring homeowner has an easement allowing a driveway or road to run through your land, you can’t implement a fence blocking the use of said driveway.
On the other hand, if you are the homeowner using the driveway and you hold the easement, you are considered the “dominant estate.” In these circumstances, you are allowed to use the road as the easement grants, as long as you use the easement as is intended and do not impose an “unreasonable burden” upon the servient estate.
Easements like the ones seen for neighborhoods and subdivisions are typically created expressly through deeds, Convenants and Restrictions, plats, HOA agreements, contracts, or other written documents that explicitly detail the conditions of the easement. These documents should be recorded at the county property records office (RMC Office) in order to be enforceable and provide notice to third parties, although use, in certain circumstances, can trigger an enforceable easement.
Do easements affect your property?
Easements may have little impact on the overall value of your property. Most property owners still have full use of their property and rarely experience any negative consequences. Easements are fairly common, especially those devised for utility purposes, as mentioned previously. This is especially true if a majority of your neighbors are subject to the same easement terms.
Can easements be terminated?
Generally, easements last forever, but there are ways they can be terminated, for instance, by:
Release: Both parties agree to end the easement for a given reason.
Expiration: If the easement was developed for a specific time duration, such as the completion of a construction project, the easement will become void after said date or upon said completion per the terms of the creation document.
Merger: If a property owner acquires both the dominant and servient estates, an easement is said to be "merged" with the property and no longer effective.
Abandonment: If the easement holder stops usage or clearly indicates his or her intention to give up ownership of the easement, this information may be used to terminate the easement, however it will not expire automatically if recorded.
Owners can get peace of mind when they have access to sufficient information explaining any easements that impact their property, or their right to use a certain easement for the enjoyment of their property. Easements are easy to navigate with the help of experienced professionals at Aaron & Aaron Law Firm. Contact one of our attorneys today for guidance on how easements may affect you and your property, or if you believe you have and/or need an easement to experience the full enjoyment of your property.