When you are buying a home, you might find there is an easement. But what is an easement, and how do they work? The definition of an easement is relatively straightforward. Maximum Real Estate Exposure does an excellent job explaining numerous things to know about easements and how they can impact a property.
It can be concerning if there is a property easement on a home you are looking to buy. However, they often just exist to allow utility companies to maintain their service.
We will take a look at the things you need to know about how easements work. Sometimes an easement will be concerning, and other times they won't. Some easements have no impact on a home's market value, while others potentially could.
Whether buying land or a home, you will want to have an understanding of any easements that exist.
What is an Easement?
Easements give the legal right for someone else to access your property. This can be for a specific purpose or for a set time period. The easement gives the holder the right to do certain things set out in the agreement but with restrictions.
For example, an easement could give a neighbor the right to use your path to access their home. An easement could give a utility company access to your property to maintain sewer lines or cables.
Does the Home Have Any Easements?
If you want to find out if there are easements on your property, you can contact the County Clerk's office or the County land records office. Your local utilities companies might also have information about whether power lines or pipes cross your property and if there are easements.
Usually, a property easement will be attached to the deed for the home. There should be a reference number that you can use to get the original documents from the country clerk’s office. A Real Estate attorney can also perform a title search for you to see any recorded easements on the property.
Different Types of Easement
There are a few different types of easements that you could encounter. The different property laws in different states mean that other types of easements might also be applicable where you live. Let's look at the main easement types:
Easement by prescription
Often referred to as a prescriptive easement, this can allow someone other than the owner the right to use the land because they've been doing so previously without permission.
If someone uses the land repeatedly and openly for a certain amount of time, they could have a prescriptive easement on that property.
Easement by necessity
These types of easement typically exist because of laws rather than agreements between parties. If someone's land doesn't have direct access to the road, they would need to cross somebody else's property to gain access to their land.
Since they have no other option but to cross someone else's land to access their own, they have an easement by necessity.
A negative easement is a restriction preventing the property owner from doing certain things that would ordinarily be legal. This could mean restricting building on parts of the property or making sure the home is kept in a specific condition or painted a particular color. This type of easement is recorded in the property deed and treated as a restrictive covenant.
Other common easements include:
- Utility easements
- Affirmative easements
- Express grants
- Public easements
- Reservation easements
Do I Have to Allow Easements on My Property?
Some easements will already have been granted on your property before the house was built. Utility easements allow companies to access water pipes, sewer lines, electricity, or gas, which will be recorded in the plat records.
If there is an easement of necessity on your land, you cannot stop your neighbor from using it to get to and from their land.
An easement by prescription can be granted because the person has continuously used your land. This can be prevented by stopping the person from using your land before they meet the required amount of time for this to be granted.
Can I Get Compensation for Having an Easement?
With private easements that are negotiated when buying a home, there can be compensation. But for some easements that the law allows, compensation isn’t possible.
Negotiating an Easement
If you are negotiating an easement, it is important to state exactly what it allows and the restrictions on this. Perhaps access through part of your land is only allowed at certain times of the day.
When negotiating a private easement, check local records for some indication of how much you should charge for access to your property. This will depend on the level of access and whether it is temporary or permanent.
With everything agreed upon, it needs to be in writing. This then needs to be signed by those involved and notarized. It should be filed with the county’s land records office when completed.
Hiring a property attorney is often advised if you have problems negotiating an easement or if you have issues with easements already on the property deed.
Always ensure you understand the purpose of any easements and the rights granted to any potential parties involved. Not understanding an easement on a property could lead to significant disappointment.
Final Thoughts on Property Easements
When buying a property where an easement exists, you must do your due diligence.
Make sure you speak with an attorney for real estate and understand the easement's purpose. Not doing so could lead to disappointment that hangs over your purchase.