If you are purchasing a piece of real estate here in California, you may need to address the issue of easements at some point. For the most part, easements are usually beneficial to someone, e.g., an electric company utilizing an easement to read your meter every month.
However, there are cases in which easements are or become burdensome to property owners.
What is an easement?
Easements are encumbrances on the title of the property. They are granted to people or entities who need to make limited use of the property in question, like the meter man accessing your backyard every month. There are also different types of easements to explore, including:
- Appurtenant easements – These benefit an adjoining property, such as a neighbor’s adjacent driveway.
- Easements in gross – No benefit is gained by the tract of land. One example might be a gas transmission pipeline.
It should be noted that not all easements get recorded in public records for county clerk offices or regulatory agencies. Not knowing of an easement’s existence when a court deems that you should have known can doom a construction project or real estate venture. Make sure that all easements have been identified and noted before proceeding to sell or buy a property.
An open easement can cause trouble
Easements need to be addressed in very specific legal terms to avoid future litigation. The descriptions of easements should be specifically detailed in any deed or document related to the sale or purchase of the property. Depending upon the type of easement, its height, width and depth should be stated and noted where it lies on the tract of land.
Without this specificity, you will not be able to develop a property or even get a mortgage on it because it could be interpreted that the easement owner could usurp that property to access for mineral rights or other purposes.
Getting a legal review of your documents prior to sale or purchase can alert you to these potential headaches.