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Understand a Property’s Easements Before Purchasing

On behalf of Sayer Regan & Thayer of Sayer Regan & Thayer, LLP posted on Friday, June 3, 2022.

By Mark Thayer, Esq.
Sayer, Regan & Thayer, LLP

Are you in the market to buy a home? If you’ve been shopping for a house lately you may have come across properties that require an easement. These may sound complicated at first, but they are sometimes necessary on certain properties. They can have many benefits and drawbacks. Understanding easement rights can get complex, but as long as you have a real estate attorney guiding you through the process, there shouldn’t be any surprises.

It’s important to know your property rights as a buyer, especially when it comes to easements. Asking the right questions before you sign on the dotted line will save you a lot of headaches later.

What Are Property Easements?

First off, what are property easements? Easements provide a person, company or organization the legal right to use another person’s land for a clear and distinct purpose. For example, a utility company may need an easement on your land in order to be able to access a cable or electrical pole. Or, perhaps your driveway overlaps your neighbor’s land. In this case, you would need an easement on their property to be able to access your garage.

There are many different types of easements, such as utility easements, private easements, easements by necessity, and prescriptive easements. Knowing what each one entails before you buy is key.

There are many threats that could put your property at risk of loss to creditors, from lawsuits, to divorces to bankruptcies. These threats can make you feel vulnerable and frustrated. But there are ways to protect your property from these threats affordably and relatively easy. That’s where the DAPT comes in.

How Do You Know There’s an Easement on a Property You’re Interested In?

When looking at a home you like, you’ll have to do the necessary research on the property before you move further. Sellers must legally disclose easements on their property during a sale, but your real estate agent will also do their part to look up public records and deeds. Your real estate attorney will run a title search, which will reveal any easements present on the property in question.

Many homes have easements on them, so it shouldn’t be a source of dread or worry. But you need to understand what they are and how they can affect home ownership.

You are legally required to abide by the easement. If not, you could find yourself in the middle of a lawsuit. Let’s say the only way your neighbor can get to a public beach is by crossing through your property, and an easement is in place, you have to legally allow them to do so. If your utility company must access a pipe buried under your front yard, and there’s an easement in place, you must allow them to do so.

In order to properly abide by an easement and make sure the other party is acting in the same way, you must understand your property rights. Aside from any easements in place, you are free to use your property in any way you like.

Types of Easements

There are several types of property easements, but here are the most common:

Public easements: These allow residents of a particular area to use a section of a person’s property, such as a public beach that would not otherwise be accessible, or right-of-way access to a main road. Property owners can’t obstruct the public’s fair access to non-privately-owned areas under this type of easement.
Private easements: These are negotiated between two private property owners that address such situations as shared driveways, sewer lines running under the neighbor’s property or the installation of solar panels that obstruct the other’s view.
Easements in gross: These are rights that benefit the individual or company holding the easement rather than the property itself. The most common example of this is a utility easement, whereby a utility company has to access private land in order to install, repair, or maintain a public utility structure. In essence, this is the right of the utility company and not the land itself.
Easement appurtenant: This is a right attached to a specific piece of property. The most common example is a driveway easement whereby one neighbor must access the other’s driveway to get to their own.

Not all easements are permanent or last forever. There are easements of limited duration, which provide temporary access to a property that may end, for example, when construction work ends.

Finding, interpreting, and understanding the complexities of an easement on a property you are interested in purchasing is best left up to a real estate attorney skilled in this branch of the law. This will ensure you as the home buyer fully understand the parameters of the easement and are aware of your property rights before purchasing.

Contact Sayer Regan & Thayer for Rhode Island Real Estate Law

Buying a home can get messy. Our attorneys can guide you through all phases, including walking you through the property’s easements. Please contact us for your free, no-obligation consultation today. We are well-versed in all aspects of real estate law.

These materials have been prepared by SRT for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.

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