3 Main Types Of Easements On Property

By on March 25, 2017

Many regular homeowners would have never heard of the term easement. Some might have come across it in the past but have no idea what it means and whether it applies to them.

Real estate investors however, should at least have a basic understanding of what it encompasses.

This is because easements on a house can be both a troublesome tedious burden or a goldmine in terms of extra profits.

An easement is basically a right one party has to the use of land which belongs to another party, for special purposes that is in line with the general use of land. In many circles, this right is also called a privilege.

Some examples of easement rights in practice include electrical and telephone lines running over private property and water pipelines running below.

How easements come into being

It goes without saying that land owners can grant specific easements via written documentation to corporations or governments intending to conduct some works on the land.

Owners can even reserve easements when selling a property. Withholding them allows the sale or lease of these rights to other parties. This practice is commonly observed when developers sell apartments on real estate and grant easements to utility companies to provide their services.

Governments can also purchase an easement for specific use. This even is called government condemnation.

There are also circumstances for easements to arise without written agreements.

For example, if the owners of a parcel of land sells an area at the back where the only manner to access the back area is via the front of the land, common sense says that the new owner of the land at the back will have the right to enter his house via walking over the front. Otherwise the new owner would not be able to enter his own home!

The good thing is that this is not just a stroke of common sense. But in fact written into easement legislation. And it is labeled easement by necessity.

Another method where easements without written documentation is easement by prescription. If for example a privately owned alley has been used by a person for a long time without permission, this person can claim a legally recognized easement. However this method of acquisition requires some criteria to be met.

Here are the 4 main types of easement

1) Easement appurtenant

This is a very specific easement that refers to the driveway from a road to the back lot.

These types of driveways are automatically part of the deal whenever the back lot is sold. The easement is legally connected with the back lot. And therefore implied.

If you think this is a fair benefit for the owners of back lots. Think about it from the front lot owners’ perspective. Because the rights of the owners of the back lots are perpetual. And new owners of the front lots will have to take on the burden as well.

It is against the law for front lot owners to put up some kind of barrier that disrupts the access to the back lots as back lot owners will have a right of way.

Because of this structure and arrangement, the front lot is called the servient estate as it serve the back. While the back lot is called the dominant estate.

This easement can be terminated when it’s necessity no longer exist. For example, when a new road is built at the back granting access from the back.

2) Party wall easement

A party wall easement is an easement appurtenant.

This exist when a single wall resides on the lot line that separates 2 different parcels of land.

It is not necessary for this “wall” to be an actual wall. This easement still takes effect when the “wall” is a fence or something similar.

In this situation, the 2 different owners will own the portion of the wall on his/her land, AND an easement for the other portion of the wall for physical support.

This is commonly observed in real estate like terrace houses and townhouses where each house is built side by side and sharing a common wall.

This is important as when a party decides to demolish his/her house, the neighbor’s house will be torn down as well as they share a common wall.

In this case, the owner must leave the wall for the adjacent house and provide special support if necessary. This is a requirement during demolition and up until a new house is constructed.

3) Easement in gross

This is like an easement appurtenant except that there is no dominant estate.

Easements for gas lines, telephone lines, power lines, etc, are all easements in gross. They belong to the corporations instead to a parcel of land.

This means that the servient estate is the parcel where the companies have the rights to do their stuff like running their pipes and lines. All owners of the parcel, whether current or future, are bound by these terms.

As with all legal matter, do check with a proper real estate attorney whenever you are in doubt over legal issues.

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