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What is an easement?

There is often a lot of confusion surrounding easements and what rights they provide. If someone else has one on your property, or you have one on another person's property, it's critical to know what legal rights and obligations it contains.

Here are a few key facts about an easement:

  • It allows a person who does not own the land to use it in a specific way.
  • It may only apply to a certain part of the land, rather than the entire property.
  • The person who has the easement can use the land, but he or she cannot occupy it.
  • The easement holder is also not allowed, in most cases, to stop other people from coming on the property. The only exception is if those people make it impossible for the person to properly use the easement.
  • The person who owns the land can still use the easement.
  • The landowner cannot stop the easement holder from entering the land or using it.

A simple example is a driveway. Perhaps someone bought a piece of property behind yours and built a house. The only catch is that the land doesn't touch the road. Your property blocks the rear property from the street.

The person may then be able to get an easement to use your driveway to cross your property and enter his or her lawn. You can still use the land he or she drives across, of course, but that individual also has a legal right to use that specific part of your property. He or she can't stop anyone else from using the land or even the driveway, unless the third party is blocking the driveway so that the rear property becomes inaccessible.

Easements can be very useful, but they also lead to disputes when people don't agree on their rights or proper use. Make sure you know where you stand, legally speaking.

Source: FindLaw, "Easement Basics," accessed Feb. 16, 2018

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