One of the biggest concerns people have when buying or selling property involves making sure that they have a “clean” title – one without any kind of encumbrances that could affect their ownership rights.
This is where easements can sometimes create concerns. An easement grants one person or party a “nonpossessory” interest in the property that is owned by another, and that interest can sometimes limit the actual property owner’s use of their land. While an easement isn’t exactly something that automatically kills a real estate deal, it is smart to know more about them so that you can decide how to proceed when the issue comes up.
What are easements in gross?
Easements in gross are easements that benefit a specific person or entity, and they’re tied to that person or entity – rather than being tied to a particular piece of land. That means that the easement is limited in nature and does not necessarily transfer to the new owner if the property is sold. It also doesn’t rely on the two parties involved having adjacent land.
You may find easements in gross with utility companies – especially in rural areas. The local electric company, for example, may hold an easement in gross so they can cross onto someone’s farmland in order to install, repair or maintain their power lines. Easements in gross can also sometimes hinge on personal relationships. For example, maybe a farmer granted an easement to his best friend so that his buddy can use the pond on that farm for fishing. The easement is tied specifically to that friend and only gives them the right to access the land for a very narrow purpose.
What are easements appurtenant?
Easements appurtenant are easements that are attached to a specific parcel of land. They typically involve two adjacent parcels of land, known as the “dominant estate” and the “servient estate.” The easement allows the owner of the dominant estate to use or access a portion of the servient estate – but only for a specific purpose.
Unlike easements in gross, however, this kind of easement becomes part of the property’s deed and it continues even if the ownership of the land in question changes hands. These kinds of easements are commonly found where neighbors share access to a service road or something similar. For example, your neighbor up the hill may need to travel through a small section of your private property to reach the main road. Without an easement, that would be impossible.
Any real estate deal has the potential for problems, which is why it’s so important to have experienced legal guidance throughout the process of purchasing real property. An easement might or might not be “a big deal,” but you really need to understand what you’re getting into before you commit to buying property with one attached.