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What Does Easement Mean In Real Estate

When it comes to real estate, one important concept to understand is easement. Easement refers to the legal right to use or access someone else’s property, even though you don’t own it. It’s like having a key to your neighbor’s backyard, allowing you to cross their property to reach a public park. Easements can be a surprising aspect of real estate that can have a significant impact on property value and usage.

Easements have a rich history in real estate, dating back centuries. For example, in medieval Europe, lords often granted easements to their serfs, allowing them to access certain areas of the lord’s land for farming or gathering firewood. Today, easements serve various purposes, such as granting utility companies the right to access land for maintenance or allowing homeowners to have a shared driveway. Understanding easements is vital for both buyers and sellers, as they can affect property rights, usage, and potential restrictions.

Understanding Easements in Real Estate

When it comes to real estate, there are many legal terms and concepts that can be confusing. One such term is “easement.” If you’re unfamiliar with this term, you’re not alone. Easements are often overlooked and misunderstood, yet they play a significant role in property rights and land use. In this article, we’ll dive deep into the world of easements and explore what they mean in the context of real estate.

An easement is a legal right to use someone else’s property for a specific purpose. It grants a non-possessory interest in the land to another party without transferring ownership. Easements can be created for various reasons, such as granting access to a landlocked property, allowing utility companies to install and maintain infrastructure, or ensuring the preservation of scenic views. Understanding easements is vital for property owners, as they can impact the use and development potential of a property.

One important aspect of easements is that they are usually attached to a specific piece of property and can burden or benefit that property. This means that if you own a property with an easement, you are subject to the rights and restrictions outlined in the easement agreement. Conversely, if your property benefits from an easement, you have the right to access or use a portion of someone else’s land for the specified purpose.

Now, let’s explore the different types of easements and how they can impact real estate transactions and property ownership.

Types of Easements in Real Estate

1. Easements Appurtenant

An easement appurtenant is an easement that benefits one property (the dominant estate) and burdens another property (the servient estate). The easement is typically associated with the ownership of the land and passes from one owner to the next. The easement appurtenant exists as long as the dominant and servient estates exist.

An example of an easement appurtenant is a shared driveway between two neighboring properties. One property has the right to use the driveway to access their land, while the other property has the obligation to allow this access. The easement remains in place even if the properties change ownership.

When dealing with easements appurtenant, it’s crucial to understand that they cannot be separated from the land. If the dominant estate is sold, the easement automatically transfers to the new owner, ensuring the continued benefit of the easement.

Easements appurtenant are common in residential settings, especially in neighborhoods where properties share common areas or amenities, such as private roads or community parks.

2. Easements in Gross

Unlike easements appurtenant, easements in gross do not require the existence of a dominant estate. Instead, the easement benefits an individual or entity directly. Easements in gross are personal and typically do not transfer with the ownership of the property.

There are two common types of easements in gross: commercial easements and personal easements. Commercial easements are often granted to utility companies or telecommunications providers to install and maintain infrastructure on private property.

Personal easements, on the other hand, are usually granted to individuals for a specific purpose. For example, a landowner may grant an easement to a neighbor allowing them to fish in a private pond on the property. These easements are typically revocable and can be terminated by the grantor or the grantee.

Easements in gross are different from easements appurtenant because they do not create a permanent right attached to a particular property. They are more temporary in nature and are not transferable unless specifically stated in the easement agreement.

3. Prescriptive Easements

A prescriptive easement is a type of easement that is acquired through continuous and uninterrupted use of another person’s property for a specific period. To establish a prescriptive easement, certain elements must be met, such as open and notorious use, continuous use for a statutory period, and without the owner’s permission.

An example of a prescriptive easement is when someone regularly uses a path through a neighbor’s land to access a nearby beach. If this use continues openly and without interruption for the required period, the person may gain the right to continue using the path, even if the owner of the land objects.

Prescriptive easements can be challenging to establish and require meeting specific legal criteria. It’s essential to consult a real estate attorney for guidance if you believe you may have a prescriptive easement claim.

Implications of Easements in Real Estate Transactions

Easements can significantly impact real estate transactions and property ownership. It’s crucial for buyers and sellers to be aware of any existing easements on a property and understand their rights and obligations related to those easements.

For buyers, it’s vital to conduct a thorough title search and review the property’s title report to identify any easements associated with the property. This will ensure that there are no surprises after the purchase and that the buyer fully understands the limitations or benefits of the easements.

For sellers, disclosing any known easements on the property is essential to maintain transparency in the transaction. Failure to disclose significant easements could lead to legal issues and potential lawsuits.

Additionally, when it comes to developing or expanding a property, existing easements may restrict certain activities or constructions. It’s crucial to understand the easement’s scope and any limitations it imposes to avoid legal disputes and violations.


Understanding what easements mean in the context of real estate is crucial for property owners, buyers, and sellers. Easements can affect property rights, land use, and development possibilities. Being aware of the types of easements, such as easements appurtenant, easements in gross, and prescriptive easements, allows individuals to navigate the complexities of real estate transactions and make informed decisions. If you’re involved in a real estate transaction or believe you may have an easement issue, consulting a qualified real estate attorney can provide valuable legal guidance.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions and answers about easements in real estate:

1. What is an easement and how does it relate to real estate?

An easement is a legal right that allows someone to use another person’s property for a specific purpose. In real estate, easements are often used to grant access to a property over a neighboring property or to allow utility companies to access and maintain utility lines that run through a property.

Easements can be created by agreement between parties or by a court order. They can be temporary or permanent, and they may restrict certain activities on the property. It’s important to understand the terms and implications of any easements that may exist when buying or selling real estate.

2. What are the different types of easements in real estate?

There are several types of easements that can exist in real estate:

a. Right of way easements: These allow someone to travel across another person’s property to access their own property.

b. Utility easements: These allow utility companies to install and maintain utility lines, such as gas, electricity, or water, on someone else’s property.

c. Conservation easements: These restrict certain activities on a property to protect its natural resources or preserve its scenic or historic value.

d. Solar easements: These allow one property owner to protect their access to sunlight by preventing another property owner from building structures that could block the sunlight.

Each type of easement carries its own set of rights and responsibilities, and it’s essential to understand how they may impact the use and enjoyment of a property.

3. Can an easement be terminated?

In some cases, an easement can be terminated. This can happen through:

a. Agreement: The parties involved agree to terminate the easement and document the termination in writing.

b. Abandonment: If the easement holder stops using the easement for a certain period of time and shows no intention of continuing to use it, it may be considered abandoned and terminated.

c. Merger: If the same person or entity becomes the owner of both the dominant and servient properties, the easement may be terminated by merger.

d. Court order: In some cases, a court may terminate an easement if it determines that the easement is no longer necessary or if there is a change in circumstances that warrants termination.

4. What happens to an easement when a property is sold?

When a property is sold, easements that exist on the property generally continue to be binding on the new owner. Easements are typically recorded in the public records and are part of the property’s legal description, so a new owner will generally be aware of any existing easements.

It’s important for both buyers and sellers to be aware of any easements that may impact the property. Buyers should review the title report and property disclosures to understand the easements on the property, while sellers should disclose any known easements to potential buyers.

5. Can an easement be modified?

In some cases, an easement can be modified if all parties involved agree to the changes. This typically requires a written agreement that outlines the modifications to the easement.

However, modifying an easement can be a complex process and may require legal documentation and approval from the relevant authorities. It’s advisable to consult with a real estate attorney when considering modifying an easement to ensure that all necessary steps are followed.

An easement in real estate is a legal right that allows someone to use another person’s property for a specific purpose. It is an agreement between two parties, where one grants the right of use and the other receives it.

Easements can be beneficial in various situations, such as granting access to a landlocked property, allowing utilities to access a property for maintenance or installation, or creating shared driveways. It’s important to understand the terms and limitations of an easement before entering into any agreements involving the use of another person’s property.

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