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An easement is a legal right that gives one party the right to go onto another party's property. That property may be owned by a private person, a business entity, or a group of owners.

For example, utilities often get easements that allow them to run pipes or phone lines beneath private property. A nonexclusive easement does not specify any specific parties. An exclusive easement specifies parties who have benefit of that easement. Easements may be obtained for access to another property, called "access and egress", entry to make repairs on a fence or slope area, for a fence to straddle a property line and other uses.


An easement is a real property interest, but separate from the legal title of the owner of the underlying land. The land which is burdened by the easement is called the "servient" property. The land which receives the benefit of the easement is called the "dominant" property or estate. An easement is most often created by preparing a deed-like notarized document signed by owners of the servient property which is recorded at the county recorders office, which defines the terms and duration of the easement.

An easement may be created by other procedures. For example, an easement by prescription may be created by the long term use of a neighboring property without objection by its owner, under certain circumstances.

Easements should describe its purpose and the extent of the use, as well as the easement location and boundaries. Easements are most often created by a deed to be recorded just like any real property interest, or by continuous and open use by the non-owner against the rights of the property owner for a number of years ("prescriptive easement"), or to do equity (fairness), including giving access to a "land-locked" piece of property (sometimes called an "easement of necessity"). Because landlocked parcels have virtually no value, an easement by necessity can usually be created over an adjoining parcel if, at sometime in the past, it had common ownership with the landlocked parcel.

There is also a "negative easement" such as a prohibition against building a structure which blocks a view.

Title reports and title abstracts will usually describe all existing easements upon a parcel of real property. The location, maintenance, and uses of the easement are defined by the agreement, use, or instrument creating the easement.

There are two other categories of easements- easements in gross and appurtenant easements. Easements in gross are personal rights given to individuals or specific groups. Once the easement owner dies or, in the case of corporations, dissolves, the easement terminates.

Appurtenant easements are more permanent and are given to both the property and its owner. If the property owner with an easement sells the property, the new buyer gains the easement rights that belong with the property. To be a legal appurtenant easement, the properties involved must be adjacent to each other and must be owned by separate entities.

Winsten Law Group has successfully counseled and represented numerous property owners regarding easement issues, both in connection with transactions and in litigation.

For more information about your real estate easement questions, please fill out this brief form:

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