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Easements 101: Everything You Need to Know

Easements are a key concept in real estate law, but they are often misunderstood. In this post, we’ll explain what an easement is and how it can affect property owners. By the end of this post, you’ll have a thorough understanding of this important legal concept.

What is an Easement?

An easement is a legal right to use another person’s property for a specific purpose. This right is granted by the property owner, and it allows the easement holder to access the property or make use of it in some way. For example, an easement might allow a utility company to run power lines across a piece of land, or it might allow a homeowner to access their property by driving over a neighbor’s land.

Two Main Types of Easements

There are two main types of easements: easements in gross and easements appurtenant. Easements in gross are personal in nature, meaning they benefit an individual or organization rather than a specific piece of property. For example, an easement in gross might allow a hiking club to use a piece of land for a hiking trail. Easements appurtenant, on the other hand, are tied to a specific piece of property. For example, an easement appurtenant might allow a homeowner to access their property by driving over a neighbor’s land. Under Washington law, easements in gross are generally not favored.

How Are Easements Created?

Easements can be created in a number of ways. In some cases, they are created by express agreement between the property owner and the easement holder. For example, a property owner might grant an easement to a utility company in exchange for payment. In other cases, easements are created by implication, meaning they are inferred from the circumstances. For example, if a property owner has been using a neighbor’s land to access their own property for many years, an easement by implication might be created.

Other Ways of Creating Easements

Easements can also be created by prescription and implication. Easements created by prescription means they are established through continuous use. In order for an easement by prescription to be created, the use of the property must be open, notorious, continuous, and hostile. This means that the use must be visible, known to the property owner, ongoing, and without the property owner’s permission. On the other hand, an easement can be “implied’ from prior use of the property (which can happen when a landowner conveys part of her land and retains part and there is evidence of usage between the sold parcel and retained parcel) or implied by necessity.

How Are Easements Terminated?

Easements are not permanent and can be terminated in several ways. For example, an easement can be terminated by the property owner and the easement holder agreeing to end the easement. An easement can also be terminated under certain circumstances if it is not used for a certain period of time.

Conclusion

As a property owner, it’s important to understand your rights and obligations when it comes to easements. If you have an easement on your property, you must allow the easement holder to use your property in the manner specified by the easement. If you have an easement on someone else’s property, you must use the property in accordance with the terms of the easement.

Easements can be a complex area of law, and it’s important to consult with an experienced attorney if you have questions or concerns. Lucent Law’s experienced attorneys can help you understand your rights and obligations as a property owner, and can assist you in creating, terminating, or enforcing an easement.

Author: Brett T. Sullivan, Real Estate Attorney and Partner of Lucent Law, PLLC

 

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