Easement law is a body of law encompassing any legal requirements associated with an easement, which grants one party the right to use another party’s real property for a particular purpose. For example, an electric company may have a license allowing it to place electric poles and wiring on a homeowner’s land. In some jurisdictions, the party owning the property easement is referred to as the dominant tenement owner while the servient tenement owner is the party on whose property the easement is located.
Easement law encompasses both private and public easements. A public easement is generally available to all members of the public. For example, a public park and a state highway are each public easements.
On the other hand, a private easement can only be used by a limited number of people. For example, suppose that a condominium owner has an circuit box in his or her garage containing electric circuits for all of the condominium units in a building. The other condo owners would likely be given the right to use the garage for the purpose of handling their own electric needs. Other members of the public, however, would not have authorization to use the garage.
In general, easement law allows several different ways to create land use licenses. One of the most common types of easements is one granted by a written deed. The deed typically specifies the land that may be used, who may use the land, and the purpose for which it can be used.
In some jurisdictions, easement law allows an easement to be created by implication. For instance, suppose that a property owner sells off two separate plots of land and that the second plot can only be accessed using a driveway located on the first plot of land. An easement by implication would permit the second plot owner to access his or her land using the driveway on the first plot owner's land.
Some land owners create easements when they sell part of their land but reserve the right to use part of the land in the future. For example, a landowner may sell a piece of property to a developer but retain the right to drill for minerals and oil. A few jurisdictions permit easements to be created by prescription, which arises when one party has consistently used another party’s land for a particular purpose. Usually, the use must be continuous for a period of time specified in statutory easement law.