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Types of Real Estate Easements

Updated: Nov 15, 2023


Photo of land with a sunset in the background with text overlay "Types of real estate easements"

In every real estate transaction, it is crucial to carefully consider all the qualities of the land that can impact its value, current and future usage, as well as any necessary future improvements. Although it's natural to focus on the visible aspects such as buildings, utilities, fencing, topography, and water sources, there are other imperceptible features that are equally significant to both buyers and sellers. One such feature is called an easement, and it holds immense importance.


What is an easement?


An easement is a legal right that allows someone else to use another person's land for a specific purpose. It can be created in various ways, such as by agreement or through court order. Real estate easements are common in property ownership and can serve several purposes, including granting access to landlocked properties or allowing utility companies to install and maintain their infrastructure.


What are the types of easements?


Easement Appurtenant


This type of easement involves two adjacent parcels of land, where one parcel is burdened by the right to use the other parcel for a specific purpose. For example, an easement appurtenant can allow a neighboring property owner to access their land through another's driveway. Another example would be home on a landlocked property where the owner needs an easement appurtenant to cross a neighbor’s lot.


This type of easement 'runs with the land,' meaning that it stays with the property regardless of who owns it. When you're trying to buy or sell land, evaluating if this type of easement exists on a property is especially critical.


For example, an easement appurtenant may enable a property owner to access a landlocked property by establishing a driveway across the adjacent frontage parcel. Similar easements can be established for renewable energy projects, such as for wind farms.


Easement in Gross


An easement in gross is a legal right that grants someone else the use of land as long as the owner retains ownership or until the easement holder is absent. Unlike other types of easements, an easement in gross is not transferable to a new owner after the property is sold. This type of easement allows an individual or entity to possess certain rights over the property.


Prescriptive Easements


A prescriptive easement is a legal concept that gives a person the right to use another person’s property without permission. This type of easement typically occurs when there is a long-standing confusion or misconception regarding the boundary lines of a property. Over an extended period of time, this misunderstanding becomes ingrained, leading to the establishment of a formal easement by a court. The easement occurs if the property is used in an actual, open, continuous and uninterrupted long-term period as specified by the law of the state.


Conservation Easements


According to the National Conservation Easement Database, a conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement that serves as a powerful tool for protecting the conservation values of land. By permanently limiting certain uses of the land, such as development or industrial activities, a conservation easement ensures the preservation of important natural resources, wildlife habitats, and scenic landscapes. This approach, also referred to as a conservation restriction or conservation agreement, safeguards the property's unique characteristics and ensures its availability for future generations to enjoy and cherish. Conservation easements usually 'run with the land,' similar to an easement appurtenant.


Conclusion


Understanding the different types of easements and their implications is crucial to make informed decisions about land use, development, and potential future changes. By conducting thorough due diligence and working with experienced professionals, buyers and sellers can ensure that all aspects of a property are thoroughly examined before finalizing any real estate transaction.


When selling or purchasing land in general, the existence of easements is just one of the many factors that needs to be considered. Landowners should understand the impact of existing or potential easements on their land, especially if they are considering selling their land or leasing land for a solar farm or a wind farm. LandGate's free property report breaks down detailed information about other essential property attributes, making it easier for landowners and real estate professionals to make informed decisions.




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