Imagine finding the home of your dreams. You move in and quickly start making plans for a pool construction project in the backyard before summertime. After all, isn’t homeownership all about being able to make decisions like this?
The whole family is excited – until you find out that there is an easement on the property. Your plans for adding a pool in the backyard of the home you own come to a screeching halt.
How is this even possible?
What is an Easement?
An easement is a legal document that grants property access to certain people or companies. In other words, it gives people the right to come on your property whenever they need to for a limited purpose. Keep in mind that the individuals who hold the easement do not have any other rights to the property.
While easements can lead to a lot of frustration and headaches for homeowners, having a thorough title search done prior to purchasing the property should reveal any that are on the property so that they can be addressed ahead of time. Though, unfortunately, there are easements that may not show up at all in public records, leaving homeowners facing unexpected challenges.
Types of Easements
Not all easements are created equal. There are different types and each can impact your property in different ways. Let’s take a closer look at 6 types of easements.
Utility easements are very common. They are put in place when a home is built on land that houses cables, pipes, poles, and the like. The utility company’s infrastructure has to stretch out through the community and this means it can often be found on various residential properties.
You may find that utility companies will work with you so that you can make the most of your property. You should be able to put up a fence, add a shed, or even put in an above-ground pool — as long as it does not interfere with access to their infrastructure. Just be sure to get their permission first. You may also need a permit if you plan to add a pool fencing installation or a pool deck with the help of pool deck pavers around your pool.
Private easements are those that often include neighbors, such as sharing driveways, pipes, sewage systems, etc.
As the property owner, you will always have a say as to whether you want a private easement on your land. However, you cannot cancel those that have already been placed before you took ownership.
Easement by Necessity
Sometimes easements are necessary. For instance, a neighbor may not have access to their property off of a city road but rather have to use your private road instead. An easement gives them access to it without being considered trespassing.
If a new public road is built that provides the neighbor access, the easement can become void.
Similar to a private or necessity easement, an easement appurtenant can offer certain walkways or other common-type areas to the neighbor. What sets it apart is that it is attached to the property regardless of the owner. If you buy a property with this type of easement, you have to follow through with it.
Again, if the situation has changed or is no longer valid, then the easement may be voided.
Easement by Prescription
An easement by prescription is one that gets put in place because the property is being used as if it were there already. An example would be an area of the property that your neighbor cuts through every day to get to a main road. After a while, it is just a given that they would be able to use that space.
Easement in Gross
Finally, an easement in gross is one that doesn’t offer any specifics. It can leave your land open to utility companies, a local business, etc. If they need to do anything on your property, the easement will give them the right to do so.
Navigating Easements and Your Home Purchase
Easements can be tricky. They may or may not show up in your title search. If they do, you may be able to address them and remove them before you take ownership — depending on the type of easement, of course.
If an easement shows up later down the road or if it is impacting your ability to enjoy your property to the fullest, you may be able to break free from its grip with the help of an experienced legal team.
Roach & Lin is a real estate law firm in Long Island, NY, specializing in foreclosure, bankruptcy, evictions, REO/real estate, loss mitigation, and litigation.