You made an offer on what you consider the perfect piece of property for you. As you began the due diligence phase of your real estate transaction, you were told that the possibility of there being at least one easement on the property was high.
An easement allows someone else to use or occupy a portion of your property. Does this mean that you won't own that portion of the property? No. You retain legal title to the land. Someone else simply has the right to use it, but only for a specified purpose and only the piece of land identified in the easement.
Types of easements that could be on the property
The most common easements include the following:
- A neighbor may have a private easement on your property. Review these documents carefully since they could limit your ability to use the property in question.
- As the name implies, a municipality or utility company receives a utility easement. You may still be able to use the land as long as you don't interfere with the purpose of the easement and the easement holder can access the property when needed.
- A neighbor may need an easement by necessity in order to access his or her property. This often occurs when a larger piece of property is divided, but access to parts of it weren't figured into the division process.
- A neighbor may need to use a portion of your property, but only for a specific amount of time. In this case, the neighbor receives a prescriptive easement.
- As the name implies, a public easement allows anyone access to a portion of the property.
Some easements aren't documented or recorded like the ones above, but exist nonetheless. For instance, you can't deny your neighbor's access to a portion of one of Hawaii's beautiful public beaches just because they would have to cross your property to get to it.
Do you have to allow an easement?
In some cases, such as in utility or easements by necessity, you probably won't have a choice but to accept it. However, you may be able to terminate some easements, but you must go through a process in order to make it happen. Even then, a court may not allow you to terminate the easement depending on the situation.
If you have questions regarding any easements on a piece of property you wish to buy, it would be in your best interests to obtain clarification before finalizing the transaction. The more you know about what you are getting into, the better off you will ultimately be.