Easements to real estate are simply an interest in some other person’s land for the limited purpose identified in the easement. In plain language, it is the right of another person to use your land for some limited purpose. Easements can be exclusive; meaning that the use is restricted to a certain person or persons. Easements can also be limited to a certain amount of time or can be perpetual and “run with the land.” As there are countless different variations of easements, it is impossible to explain all the law surrounding easements. The purpose of this post is to point out two of the most common types of easements and give a brief overview of common issues.
Some of the most common forms of easements are travel easements and utility easements. A travel easement is the right for another individual to cross real estate not owned by them. Usually this is for the purpose of accessing their own real estate. Commonly, a travel easement (otherwise known as “ingress-egress” easement) is granted to a homeowner who owns real estate that is only accessible by crossing another person’s land. With agricultural real estate, a travel easement is typically given to a farmer so that they may access their field or pasture as there is no direct access from a road. Most of these types of travel easements are perpetual or “run with the land.” This means that if the owner of the easement sells their real estate that is accessed by the easement, the new owner will have the right to continue to use the easement. When representing buyers of real estate, if there is not apparent direct access from a government roadway, it is wise to inquire as to whether there is a travel easement and whether it transfers to your buyers. Nobody wants to purchase real estate only to find out they cannot access it!
The other major type of easement is a utility easement. Based upon reading the first portion of this post, it should come as no surprise that a utility easement is simply the right to cross another person’s real estate with utilities. These types of easements range from a small water line running to a house all the way to high voltage transmission lines. The most important thing to take into consideration with utility easements is whether the easement will affect the planned use of a potential buyer. Utility easements commonly do not allow a person to build any structure over or under an easement. For example, if a Buyer had plans to build a garage, the location of an easement could affect these plans.
An easy way to determine whether there are easements on real estate being purchased or sold is to review the title commitment. This report should list all easements that are affecting the real estate being transferred. The easements will be listed under the “exceptions” section or following the legal description. Often the commitment will only list the existence of the easement and not specify the details. At Tallgrass Title, we happily supply the underlying document listed in our commitments upon request. That’s our job!