In legal terms, an easement is the legal right to use another person’s real property for a specific purpose for a specified amount of time. As such, an easement provides a person with the legal right to go through another person’s land when their usage is consistent with the specified easement restrictions.
It is important to note that an easement grants a possessory interest in the property to the easement holder for a specific purpose. However, the actual landowner still retains the title to the property. It is also important to note that because easements are associated with real property, they are governed by real property law.
An example of an easement would be if a landowner allows their neighbor to use their private road or path to reach their home or a specified location. Other common easements include easements related to public utilities, power lines, or cable TV/internet lines.
Importantly, an easement can be granted to anyone, but they are generally granted to neighbors, government agencies, or private parties. Further, easements are often granted to public utility companies prior to an individual purchasing a piece of land or home.
As such, if you wish to know the location of sewer lines or hidden power lines, the best way to find those public utility easements would be to contact your local utility company. However, the best way to determine whether or not your property is subject to an easement is to contact the County land records office or your local County Clerk’s office.
Most easements are either recorded on or attached to the actual deed for the property that you own. As such, you could also search for an easement at your local city hall. Any easement that is recorded on the title to your property will also include a reference number, which the county clerk can then use to locate the original easement document for you to make a copy of.
In terms of the different types of easements, each state may recognize several different types of easements depending on the local real property laws. In general, there are three main types of easements:
- Easement By Prescription: Also commonly referred to as a “prescriptive easement,” an easement by prescription is an implied easement that is gained under adverse possession.
- This means that someone other than the property’s original owner has gained use or ownership rights to that specific piece of property.
- A prescriptive easement can be established as long as a person has actually used the land or property openly and continuously for a specified amount of time without the permission of the actual land owner;
- Easement By Necessity: An easement by necessity is generally created by the law and not by a specific promise or agreement between neighbors. In other words, the law implies the easement’s existence to achieve just results.
- For example, a property could be landlocked, meaning it cannot be accessed except by traveling over other property. In that case, the law may create an easement by necessity in order to allow the landlocked owner access to their own property by way of the other landowner’s property;
- Negative Easement: A negative easement creates an obligation or a restriction in which the property owner cannot use their own property in a specific way that would otherwise be legal.
- Negative easements are generally treated as restrictive covenants on the original owner’s property.
Other common examples of types of easement include:
- Express grants;
- Reservation easements;
- Affirmative easements;
- Utility easements;
- Public easements; and
- Easement by estoppel.