Purpose of an Easement. An easement is an interest in land which is owned by a person who is not the owner of the whole parcel, such as the right to use or control a portion of the parcel, or an area above or below it, for a specific limited purpose (such as to cross it for access to a public road, to share a common drive with a neighboring property, or to install and maintain utility wires or lines). The land benefiting from an easement is called the dominant estate; the land burdened by an easement is called the servient estate. Unlike a lease or license, an easement may last forever, but it usually does not give the holder the right to exclusively possess, take from, improve, or sell the land. Some common easements may include: (i) a right-of-way; (ii) a right of entry; (iii) a right to the support of land and buildings; (iv) a right of light and air; or (v) a right to water. The owner of the servient estate is normally free to use his or her property as he or she chooses, provided that use does not impair the rights of the holder of the dominant estate to use the land covered by the easement.Easements Benefiting the Land. You may have an easement over someone else’s property for several reasons. One of the most common reasons may be for access to a public right of way for a property which otherwise might be landlocked. Check your survey or ask your title company if you are unsure of the purpose of any identified easement. Also, make sure that every easement benefiting your property over someone else’s property is reflected with the legal description included with Schedule A of your title insurance policy. One of the items insured by an owner’s policy of title insurance is legal access to the insured property.
Easements Burdening the Land. If someone else has a properly recorded easement over my property, what are my obligations and rights with respect to that easement?
Your obligations to the party benefiting (dominant estate) from the easement over the property you are purchasing (servient estate) depend on the written agreement creating the easement.
If the survey of the property reflects a path labeled “easement” but no document is of record creating the easement, you will want to inquire as to where the surveyor obtained the information about this easement. If the unrecorded easement is shown on the survey, the title company will likely list this unrecorded easement on your title policy as an exception to coverage. That means that if someone were to claim the right to use this easement, your title insurance would not pay to resolve this issue.
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