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Easement basics

7/8/2016 | Real Estate Blog

Property owners in Pennsylvania and other states typically have exclusive use of their land. However, in some instances, property owners must allow others to access their land for specific purposes, or the property owners themselves may be restricted in how they use their own land. Collectively, these rights of land use are referred to as easements.

Easements typically fall into one of two categories. Affirmative easements allow those who do not own the property to use someone else’s land for a particular purpose. Examples of affirmative easements include allowing utility companies to run cables, wires or pipes across one’s property or allowing a neighbor to drive across one’s property in order to access his or her own house. Negative easements are those that prohibit a property owner from using his or her land in a certain way. For instance, land that has been set aside for conservation may not be built upon, or a property owner may be prohibited from obstructing a waterway or putting up a fence or tall vegetation that would block a scenic view.

Easements can be expressly created through a written document, such as a deed or a contract, or they may be implied. Implied easements typically require court intervention, and they can further be broken down into sub-categories depending on the circumstances. In any event, easements occur between two parties: the servient tenement, which is the land affected, or burdened, by the easement, and the dominant tenement, which is the land that the easement benefits.

Understandably, easements can cause issues with property owners, especially when they are trying to buy or sell land. Additionally, some property owners can find themselves in court over misusing their own land that interferes with the easement. Because of the complexities involved in such cases, anyone with questions or concerns about easements would need to consult an experienced real estate law attorney for advice and assistance.