A land easement gives a person, creature, or thing the right to tread upon or encroach upon land that is owned by someone else. Common easements include access to another's property for access and egress, to install utility lines or sewer pipes, to reach natural spring water sources, to conduct urgent fence or earth slide repairs, or to give herds or a group of animals passage. In rural areas, a land easement is regularly granted for a person to reach their otherwise landlocked home.
Before purchasing a lot or a home, it is important to check to see if a land easement on the property exists with the public works department or public records office. Since easements transfer each time land or property is sold, they sometimes go unnoticed for years. They may surface, however, if a property owner plans to significantly alter the land by installing a hot tub or swimming pool or building a new fence. Easements prohibit any construction on top of them and require a formal waiver for the property or homeowner to proceed with their project.
There are several different types of land easements. Sometimes a land easement is dictated by existing deeds and documents; others are created by addendums to freshly agreed upon property ownership and leasing papers. Most communities, counties, and cities have public works, design review, and land use councils that review citizen requests for easements and relief from easements.
A prescriptive easement is the most assertive and aggressive type. It is ordinarily a request based upon the claim that the property in question has been used by a person for five continuous years without the owner's knowledge or consent. This is often a case of someone walking or running in a remote or rural area and crossing land located in between or near areas of public land. An easement of necessity or equity easement is similar, and allows access to landlocked land based on the needs of the landlocked land or homeowner.
Other easements are granted based on specific boundaries. Sometimes the boundaries are exactly stated, such as "100 feet (3048 cm) in width along the eastern property line to the frontage road," and other times the terms are rather vague, such as "along the slender path that extends to the barbed wire fence." In still other cases, the easement instructions are quite general, such as "to provide access to the Phillips riding paddock," and are regularly referred to as a floating easement. In residential neighborhoods, negative easements are common when new construction is anticipated that will block existing residents' views or vistas.
Easement issues are most common between owners of adjoining properties. They are regularly resolved at public hearings and legally recorded for future reference. Once properly put into the property owners' records, easements remain intact and are passed to future generations through contracts, deeds, wills, and codicils.