Easements, Encroachments and Getting Along with the Neighbors

Real Estate Agent with The Buyers' Counsel

House on plan with keysA client recently asked about the term "easement" on a listing sheet.  He wanted to know if it was anything to be concerned about.

Having an easement on your property simply means that someone else has a right to use it for a specific purpose.   An example of this would be that your neighbors have an easement to walk over your driveway to get to their property or that the electric company has a right to get to a set of nearby meters.

Easements are quite common. They grant access of your land to other parties like utility companies, often to provide service or to maintain drainage flow across properties. In a way, an easement is similar to having joint ownership on a portion of your land with a complete stranger.

There are easements "for profit" that allow a neighbor to remove something from your property, such as blueberries.  Some common easements allow people continued and regular access to walk across your land often in connection with a recreational facility or nearby park.  

An easement is written into the deed.  The seller of a home knows about it and it should be listed on the property disclosure and MLS listing.  The broker should then disclose the information to any potential buyers or their broker.

If the property you are interested in has an easement, get a copy of the wording on the deed and have your attorney  review it.  Most easements are harmless and are not anything that should prevent you from purchasing and enjoying a property.  You just need to know all of the facts, read the exact wording and make the decision as to whether or not it is something you can live with.

An encroachment is another matter.

When a neighbor's swimming pool, garage or house partially hangs over your property, it is an encroachment.

More often than not, the encroachment has been going on for many years with the current owner of the property not objecting. If it has, then, chances are the neighbor has an implied easement on your property to continue using it in this way.

Once again, the facts should be disclosed at the time of the listing.

Usually, encroachments are a minor nuisance, if any, and should not influence your decision to purchase a home. Legally, you could force the removal of an item that is extending onto your property. However; it is wise to consider the impact it will make if you force the other property owner to pay the costs to make these types of adjustments. Not to mention, the effect it will have on your new relationship. 

The important thing about easements and encroachments is to be informed and know that they exist.  Having all of the facts will go a long way in easing tensions with the neighbors and will help you to derive the greatest amount of enjoyment from your new home.


Do you have questions about buying a home in the Metrowest area?  I would love to talk with you. Please feel free to call me at 508-881-6230 - any time or E-mail me. 


Copyright 2009 - Claudette Millette, Broker, Owner - TheBuyersCounsel     

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Comments (6)

Mick Michaud
Distinctly Texas Lifestyle Properties, LLC Office:682/498-3107 - Granbury, TX
Your Texas Lifestyle is Here!

Encroachments are fun!!!!!

I have personally purchased four properties in my lifetime and TWO had encroachment problems.  Both were resolved before I closed on the deals.

One was caused by the carelessness of the property owner two owners before me.  He built the swimming pool encroaching on city property.  It took a resolution of the Dallas city council and lots of title policy attorney hours to get it straightened out.  Basically, the city abandoned the land to my seller so they could sell it to me.   That took 9 months to resolve.  And that was my first home purchase. 

Second time was an encroachment by a neighbor to the property I currently own.  The neighbor had built a barn that was 2 feet over the property line.  The seller was an absentee owner (he had inherited the farm from his father), so he had no idea there was a problem.  Of course, the survey pointed that out.  So this was settled very easily.  The seller had the survey redone to move the property line away from the barn, sold me the net amount and deeded the encroached land to the neighbor. 

Obviously, my seller was motivated and the amount of land involved when compared to the 197 acres being purchased was a no-brainer.  I wasn't going to hose a good deal over a 2x200' strip of land.

Look at your surveys very carefully.  And that's also why its important to have a title policy when you buy.

Oct 25, 2009 04:53 AM
Claudette Millette
The Buyers' Counsel - Ashland, MA
Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass


Thanks so much for this great comment.  These are good examples of encroachment issues and how you resolved them - very well! 



Oct 25, 2009 05:00 AM
Steve Shatsky
Dallas, TX

Hi Claudette... this is an excellent explanation.  I get these questions periodically and I like your explanation better than my own!  :)

Oct 25, 2009 06:26 AM
Claudette Millette
The Buyers' Counsel - Ashland, MA
Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass


People can sometimes be confused about these items.  Thanks, as always...


Oct 25, 2009 08:33 AM
Bill Gassett
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Hopkinton, MA
Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate

I am dealing with one of the biggest headaches at the moment surrounding an easement. It is a foot away from the house and is 20 feet wide. I have been working on getting it terminated as it was an old waterline easment from a subdivision. It was abandoned on one end and I am looking to get the other end terminated. Lots of fun!

Oct 26, 2009 12:20 AM
Claudette Millette
The Buyers' Counsel - Ashland, MA
Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass


My, that is a headache. I hope you have a good attorney helping you with this. Best of luck in getting it resolved.




Oct 26, 2009 01:41 AM