What You Should Know About Easements Before Buying a House

Couple shaking hands with broker of house

So you just found out that the house you want to purchase has an easement on it. This can be good or bad news depending on what kind of easement it is. Easements are basically rights provided to another entity or individual to use or trespass on land that somebody else owns.

Find out more about property easements below and how they could potentially impact your property rights.

Understanding Property Easements

Property easements provide an organization or individual legal rights to utilize the land of another individual for a very specific purpose. For example, utility companies might have easements on properties to have easy access to electrical poles.

The same applies if the location of your driveway is off by a couple of inches from your property line. You will need an easement on the neighboring property so you can legally access your garage at any time.

How Do I Know If a Property Has Easements On It?

Legally, property sellers should tell prospective buyers about any easement on their property, which means that you must know about the existence of an easement before or as soon as you have the purchase agreement.

However, it’s best that you do your own research if you’re purchasing a home owned by a bank. You can have your land surveyor here in Utah County or real estate check for you as well. You need to find out what kind and where the easements are.

Common Types of Easements on Residential Properties

Rear view of young couple looking at their new house

The specific property rights that an easement provides will be dependent on the easement’s rules. Many different kinds of easements exist, with the following being the most common among residential properties:

  • Prescriptive Easements – The term “prescriptive” defines how an easement came about. It’s when an individual regularly uses a land owned by somebody else for a set time period without restrictions from the owner. Basically, this is what’s typically referred to as squatter’s rights.
  • Gross vs. Appurtenant Easements – Easements “in gross” offers benefits to entities or individuals, whether they’re an organization, utility company, or neighbor. On the other hand, appurtenant easements enable property owners land access that can only be accessed via the land of a neighbor, which technically benefits the property.
  • Private vs. Public – Both gross and appurtenant easements could provide access to private or public properties or entities. For example, a public easement might enable anyone to pass through your garden, while a private one might only enable a specific person to pass through your garden.
  • Negative vs. Affirmative – Majority of easements allows specific, affirmative things. However, they could likewise prevent certain actions such as blocking a neighbor’s solar panels with tall trees. This is called a negative easement. Take note that easements could be placed on land surfaces, underground areas, and even air space.

Put simply, easements on a property could be a negative thing, positive thing, or something totally neutral. The main thing to keep in mind is that you should be aware of any easements on a property you’re looking to purchase to avoid surprises later on.