You’ve found a lovely home on a beautiful piece of property, and you’re ready to buy — but there’s an easement on the property that worries you. Is it really a problem?
Possibly. Easements essentially give someone other than a property’s owner an interest in that land, and they can control what you’re entitled to do with that property. For example, if you share a driveway with a neighbor, there’s probably an easement that prevents you from blocking your neighbor’s egress and ingress. Or, if your property borders a public beach, you may have to permit the use of a small strip of your land as a pathway down to the water.
Many easements become part of the property’s legal description. These “easements appurtenant” transfer with the land when the land is sold. Personal easements, or “easements in gross,” however, are tied to a specific individual or group, not the land itself. Those are not transferable. For example, the property owner may have granted an elderly neighbor the right to hunt for mushrooms on the property so long as she lived. Once that neighbor dies, the easement ends.
It isn’t always easy to understand exactly how an easement associated with a piece of property will affect your rights or limit you. In many cases, an easement is nothing to worry about. In others, the easement represents a significant burden on your potential property rights and should be considered carefully before you proceed with your purchase.
One of the best things about consulting a real estate attorney about your potential purchase is that you can get an experienced take on any easements or other problematic issues that may crop up.