What is a real estate easement?
No piece of real estate exists in a vacuum, separate from all over property. When multiple tracts of land sit near each other, sometimes one owner will want to use a neighbor’s land in some way. For example, perhaps the only access to the main road from Lot A is through Lot B, so Lot A’s owner will probably want permission to go through a portion of Lot B to avoid inconvenience.
In order to obtain legally enforceable permission to cut through Lot B, the owner of Lot A would need to get what is called an “easement.” Essentially, as Cornell University Law School’s website explains, an easement is permission granted by a property owner to a non-owner to use the land in some manner.
When an easement involves two pieces of land, as in the example we used above, the property that bears the burden of the easement (Lot B, in this case) is called the servient tenement. Lot A would be the dominant tenement, because its owner is the one who gets to take advantage of the easement.
There are two types of easements. An affirmative easement gives the holder the right to do something on the property, such as travel through it. A negative easement limits the property owner’s rights to use his or her land in an otherwise legal way. An example would be an easement against building an overly tall structure on the land that would block a scenic view from nearby lots.
An easement can be created by express grant, but it also can arise through implication, necessity or adverse possession. If the easement was created by necessity, and the reason it was necessary ceases to exist, the easement can be terminated. Also, if the servient land is destroyed or abandoned, the easement can be terminated.
An easement can lead to disputes over each property owner’s rights and responsibilities, possibly leading litigation to settle the matter.
This is not intended to be legal advice for any specific situation and the reader should consult their attorney regarding their situation.