What is a property easement? This question comes up time to time when people are unclear of the meaning when they see this term in a title report for a property they are considering purchasing.
A property easement refers to the joint use of land or roads; essentially a non-possessory right of one party to use or enter another party’s property. This is useful for different purposes, such as building a pathway across two properties or allowing an individual to fish in a privately-owned pond.
A property easement also prevents a property from being legally “land-locked”. A land-locked property is one that does not have direct access to a public road. This is very important, because even if a property has access to a physical road, it may lack legal access because it is a private road and an easement was never recorded with the county. Recorded easements are typically noted in title reports. Banks are unlikely to lend on land to build a house without this legal access.
Property easements are segregated into several categories. Learn this terminology if you are considering entering into such an agreement.
• Appurtenant easement: The contract benefits both parties, no matter who owns the property.
• Gross easement: The contract is drawn to the advantage of one individual.
• Affirmative easement: The holder of the affirmative agreement is allowed to build on the adjoining property without the other owner’s consent.
• Negative easement: The estate is prevented from building any structures obstructive to the other owner’s view or access to their own property.
• Prescriptive easement: Typically granted for parcel owners who do not have street access to their property, the term is also referred to as adverse possession.
It can be difficult to buy, sell or improve a land-locked property so it’s best to create an easement if one is not present to ensure legal access to the road (assuming there is a road). An easement can be established by gaining agreement from the property owners’ land that must be crossed to reach the land-locked property and noting the easement on both owners’ deeds.
Remember, when purchasing a property, you should become familiar with land easement rules and regulations.
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