An easement is an interest in real estate property that a non-owner possesses. Easements are fairly common, and they could be on a property without the owner even knowing about them. The property owner is known as the “grantor” of the easement, while the party that possesses it is known as the “grantee”.
Easements are conveyed by deed or contract, and if one exists, it should be included in the legal description of the property. An easement provides the grantee with the right to use the non-owning property in a certain way. The grantee does not legally own or possess the property, they can only use the property for whatever specific purpose is described in the agreement.
When they are valid and enforceable, easements can have a significant impact on the owner’s ability to use and develop the property, and they can impact the value of the property as well. While the owner does have the right to exclude anyone but the grantee/easement holder from using the land, their own use of the property is still limited in some way because of the easement.
Types of Easements that Could Affect your Property Rights in Alabama
There are several different types of easements that could be attached to a real estate property:
One of the most common types of easements is one that is granted to a utility company. This may be an easement for electricity, telephone lines, cable TV, and water and sewer systems. Utility easements exist for the benefit of the community as it is generally more efficient to run their lines straight through a neighborhood rather than trying to work around separate pieces of private property.
Utility easements generally run through most if not all of the properties in a given area, and as such, they usually do not have a major impact on property values. These types of easements do limit owners in some ways; for example, most owners are aware that you cannot dig near power lines, and you might be restricted from doing other various projects such as planting trees in certain places.
There are some private real estate properties wherein the public has the right to access a portion of it. Examples may include land that is located near a public park, walking path, beachfront, or another area where the public needs to travel. In some instances, public easements appear after several years of the public regularly using a certain part of a property. The impact it may have on the value of the property depends largely on the specific use, whether the neighboring properties are also subject to public easements, and other specific factors.
A private easement is one that is granted from one private property owner to another for a specific purpose. For example, one property owner may grant an easement to another owner to use their land while the grantee owner is building or developing their own property.
Easements by Necessity
There are some instances in which an easement cannot be avoided. One of the most common examples is when one owner needs to travel across a neighbor’s property to access their own. In a case like this, the grantor might decide to sell an easement to the grantee in order to put in a driveway that runs across their land.
If an individual has used a piece of private property for a certain number of years, they may receive an easement by prescription. A prescriptive easement is an implied easement that may be established even without the permission of the landowner. This occurs if the individual uses the property openly and continuously for a long enough period of time.
Avoiding Legal Disputes over Easements
Easements are fairly common in the world of real estate law, and as is the case with certain types such as utility easements and easements by necessity, sometimes they are unavoidable. If you are having any legal issues regarding an easement or you are in the process of negotiating one, it is best to consult an experienced attorney to assist you.
Legal battles over easements can become costly and drag on for several months or in some cases years, and it is always best to preempt this type of situation by working with an attorney ahead of time.
For experienced legal guidance with easements and all other types of real estate issues in southern Alabama, contact Stone Crosby, P.C. for assistance. Call our Daphne, AL office today at (251) 626-6696 or send us an outline message to schedule a consultation with one of our lawyers.