Many of us are fond of the old saying that a person’s home is their castle, meaning that no one else has any right to use another person’s real estate. However, that isn’t necessarily always true. In some cases, another party may have the right to use part of a property owner’s land. One way this arrangement comes about is through an easement.
Easements can seem like relatively simple matters, and they can exist without causing any problems for many years. But when problems do come up involving easements, they can lead to very challenging legal disputes.
What is an easement?
Put simply, an easement is is a legal right for one party to use another party’s land for a specific purpose. For instance, Georgia Power has easements to run power lines over other people’s privately owned land all over the state.
There are also easements owned by ordinary homeowners for much more mundane purposes. A typical example involves a homeowner who must cross their neighbor’s property line in order to access their own land. This right may be established by deed or, under certain circumstances, established by a court.
In legal terminology, an easement can “run with the land,” meaning that the right to use the land does not terminate when either owner sells their property. Rather, the new owners must generally continue to accept the easement. This fact leads to much confusion and disputes when properties change owners.
Ending an easement
Easements are sometimes necessary and typically permanent, but they can be a burden for some property owners. However, easements can be terminated under certain circumstances.
A temporary easement can end once it is no longer necessary. For instance, if one neighbor has a right to cross another’s land while a construction project is going on, that right may end once the construction is completed.
For permanent easements, termination is a more complicated matter. One owner may buy out the other’s easement, and the easement owner can release their right to the other owner in writing.
In some rare situations, courts have terminated easements on the basis of abandonment or misuse. An easement can also be condemned by a government agency.
Resolving easement issues
Many property owners can resolve their easement issues through negotiation. Doing so requires careful negotiating skill and knowledge of the law.