What is a Property Easement?

Felicia Dye

Property easement is a concept rooted in common law. It grants entities the right to use land that does not belong to them for certain purposes. There are many entities who may need such rights. These include farmers, power companies, and neighbors.

Homeowners might have to maintain property easements for local utilities.
Homeowners might have to maintain property easements for local utilities.

There are several types of property easements. One example is a right-of-way. When a person has a right-of-way, he is permitted to travel across another person’s property to get to his destination.

It should be clearly understood that a property easement does not grant any possession rights. It only addresses a party’s right to the usage of certain property. The purpose of that usage is also normally specified.

For example, a farmer may be allowed access to an adjacent property to water his cattle. This is the only thing that he has a right to do on that property. He does not have the right to plant a crop or even to allow his cattle to wander and graze.

In many instances, a property easement is connected to another piece of real property. This means that the rights may not be limited to certain individuals. For example, if the driveway of one property lies partially on another, the owner whose property contains the driveway cannot decide that only residents may use it. Anyone visiting the property where the driveway leads has the right to travel on it.

There are some instances, however, when such rights are limited to certain entities. The instance of the farmer mentioned above is an example. Just because one farmer is granted the rights to a water source does not grant all farmers in the area that same right.

A property easement can sometimes result from the extended use of property. If a person has been using a piece a property for a certain purpose for a period of years, he may earn the right to continue doing so. The period of use that grants such a right can vary from one jurisdiction to another.

Cancellation of a property easement generally cannot be done on a whim and may be completely prohibited. Those who are planning to buy real estate should know that a property easement can even be included in the deed. Rights granted by the previous owner may be obligatory for the purchaser. If a power company, for example, has a structure on a property, it is very unlikely that a new owner can force the company to remove it. It may also be unlawful for the new owner to do anything to the property that obstructs the power company’s access to that structure.

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