Easements are a common type of real estate encumbrance – and they tend to create a lot of anxiety and confusion for both buyers and sellers.
In essence, an easement allows someone other than the property owner the right to use the property (or a section of it, at least) for a specific purpose. However, not all easements are built alike.
An easement can be tied to either the property or the people involved
There are several different types of easements, out there – and some are simply out of necessity. For example, if you live on a mountainside and you’re at the bottom of the hill and happen to own the only attached road, your neighbor who lives further up the hill may, out of sheer necessity, have to use your road to get to the main highway.
Much of the time, however, you’ll find that easements are defined two ways:
- Appurtenant easements: These run with the land and may even be written into the deed. These easements essentially last forever (unless legal action is taken to end them). For example, maybe there’s an old footpath running through the end of a property that locals use to reach a fishing spot – and their right to do so is written on the deed. That easement could continue forever.
- Easements in gross: These attach to a specific person, not the property. Since they cannot be transferred at will, they end with the life of the party who holds the easement. For example, maybe an elderly neighbor was granted the right to pick mushrooms in the woods behind a house. Once that neighbor passes away, the easement also ends.
Before you let an easement trouble you when you’re considering a purchase, find out more about the details. With the right legal guidance, you can decide if it’s really a problem.