Easements are one of the most commonly misunderstood topics in the realm of property rights. The actual concept is relatively simple. However, it’s one that many people (including many experts on the matter) have a great deal of difficulty putting into simple terms. If you have never heard of such things as prescriptive easements and negative easements, read on for a direct explanation.
What Exactly Does an Easement Consist Of?
The common definition of an easement is ” nonpossessory interest in another person’s land.” But what does nonpossessory mean? Essentially, it means that a person can be granted the right to use part of your land for a specific purpose. However, this does not grant them ownership of the land. The property in question remains yours alone.
What this basically boils down to is that you can give someone the right to use part of your land for personal or commercial purposes. For example, if you have a road that runs straight through your property, you can give a neighbor the right to use that road. The neighbor can thus drive through your property any time they wish to. However, this doesn’t mean that they now own the road.
What Types of Situations Would an Easement Be Useful In?
Easements are useful in a wide variety of situations. Some of these might include, but would not be limited to, the following:
- The use of private roads that cut across your personal property.
- The right of a phone or cable company to install a tower or other piece of equipment on your property.
- The right of an oil or energy company to drill or store equipment on your property.
- The right of a neighbor to store supplies on your land.
- The right of a neighbor to allow animals to graze on part of your land.
Who Benefits From a Relationship Established by an Easement?
While, in theory, both parties are supposed to benefit from an easement, there may be certain conditions in which the arrangement definitely favors the person who has managed to obtain it. Land that is negatively affected by an easement is called a “servient estate.” Land that is positively affected by an easement is known as the “dominant estate.” These descriptions also apply to the property holder who is affected by the arrangement, as well as the person who benefits from it.
What Are the Two Major Types of Easements?
The two major types of the easement are known as prescriptive easements and negative easements. A prescriptive easement describes a situation in which a person gains the right to use a part of your land through their regular use of it. This does not mean that they gain ownership of the land, only that they may use it as often as they wish for certain stated purposes. This right is normally non-transferable.
A negative easement is a situation in which you, as the owner of the land in question, are obligated not to use your property in certain ways. For example, a negative easement may bar you from building structures on your property that block sunlight or the normal flow of water through the area. You may also be prohibited from drilling for oil or gas on your property.
What Do You Need to Know About Easement Conditions on Your Property?
Before you sign an agreement to purchase a piece of property, you need to discover if there are any negative or prescriptive easements involved. You don’t want to be in a situation where you suddenly discover activity occurring on your land that you are powerless to do anything about. You also don’t want to be in a situation where you are not allowed to put up a structure on your land, such as a barn in your back yard. Make sure to thoroughly read your property rights agreement before you sign it.
As a property owner, you’ll be expected to learn a great deal of legal jargon. This isn’t merely to expand your vocabulary. You’ll need to know about a host of arrangements, such as express and implied easements, in order to fully protect and assert your rights as a land owner. It can be tedious to wade through documents filled with such jargon. However, you’ll find yourself in a much better position after you have managed to digest a few of the basics. Knowing the difference between the different types of easements is something that will benefit you directly should you find yourself in a property rights dispute.
What Are the Differences Between Express and Implied Easements?
As a land owner, you should be aware of certain essential differences between express and implied easements. The ultimate divide between the two types of easements comes down to whether or not there is a binding legal document to back them up. If such is the case, then the document is an express easement. If there is some sort of oral agreement but no legal document involved, then the resulting deal is known as an implied easement.
How Express Easements Created Differently From Implied Easements?
You should know that the differences between the two types of easements extend into the very manner in which they are created. This will give you a better idea of just how the two types will hold up if challenged in a court. Some of these essential differences will typically include, but will not be limited to, the following:
- An express easement is usually created by a will or by deed.
- An express easement may be created through several other means, but the common denominator is that it must always be a legal document of some kind.
- An implied easement may be created if such an easement is necessary to the livelihood of the receiver.
- The land covered by an implied easement must be subdivided so that the owner of is selling part of it while retaining the rest.
- The land covered by an implied easement can also be divided when the owner decides to sell pieces of it to several new owners.
- The person who desires to receive an implied easement needs to prove that the use for which they claim this privilege was in existence before the land was divided or sold
What Sort of Situations Do Implied Easements Occur In?
Implied easements can occur in a great variety of situations. For example, if you have a road that runs through your property and your neighbor can prove that they need to use it, this sets the stage for an implied easement. Although the agreement has not been put in writing, there does exist a clear and present need for this neighbor to access part of your property – the road that runs through it. However, this agreement does not give them any other sort of rights, such as the right to stop on your property and pick apples from your trees.
What Sort of Situations Do Express Easements Occur In?
An express easement can likewise occur in a variety of different scenarios. If a neighbor has a need to access your property in order to go to work, or a utilities company needs to install lines on it, you can give them an express easement to permit it. This is a precisely written legal document that lays out the rights that this person or company has when accessing your land. It spells out exactly what they legally can and cannot do while accessing it or performing some sort of activity on it.
Easements can be extraordinarily complex to figure out. Knowing the basics will give you a clearer idea of the extent of your rights as a property holder. This will aid you if you are ever called upon to act as a plaintiff or defendant in a land rights or property boundary dispute.