As a homeowner, the idea of a stranger on your property can be distasteful and even unnerving. Occasionally, homeowners are subject to an easement without their knowledge.
An easement is a legal right of way granted to a particular individual to cross, enter, and/or use another’s land for a specific purpose and can be owned by a third person or party that directly involves your property.1 An easement held by you allows you access to a particular portion of land that you do not own. Three common reasons for an easement are in the case of a landlocked piece of land, the installation of natural gas pipelines, and the installation of sewer lines.2
Properties with easements are referred to as “servient land.” Servient landowners are generally allowed to do as they wish with their property, so long as it doesn’t hinder the easement holder from using the easement for its designated purpose. For example, if another neighboring homeowner has an easement allowing a driveway or road to run through your land, you can’t implement a fence blocking the use of said driveway.1
On the other hand, if you are the homeowner for which the driveway was implemented and you hold the easement, you are considered the “dominant land.” In these circumstances, you are allowed to use the road as the easement grants, as long that you do not impose an “unreasonable burden” upon the servient land.1
Easements like the ones seen for neighborhoods and subdivisions are typically created expressly through deeds, HOA agreements, contracts, or other written documents that explicitly detail the conditions of the easement.1
Easements may have little impact on the overall value of your property. Most property owners still have full use of their property and rarely experience any negative consequences.3 Easements are fairly common, especially those devised for utility purposes, as mentioned previously. This is especially true if a majority of your neighbors are subject to the same easement terms.
Cynthia Myers, contributor at The Nest, says “As a general rule, the size and specific type of easement that has been used will directly influence how it affects the overall value of your land.”4
Generally, easements last forever, but there are ways they can be terminated. According to Law Shelf, the methods to terminating an easement include:
Release: Both parties agree to end the easement for a given reason.
Expiration: If the easement was developed for a specific time duration, such as the completion of a construction project, the easement will become void after said date or upon said completion.
Merger: If a property owner acquires both the dominant and servient land, an easement is no longer necessary.
Abandonment: If the easement holder stopped usage or clearly indicates his or her intention of giving up ownership of the easement, it will end.
Owners can get peace of mind when they have access to sufficient information explaining any easements that impact their property. Easements are easy to navigate with the help of the experienced professionals at Bannister, Wyatt, & Stalvey. Contact one of our attorneys today for guidance on how easements may affect you and your property.