Easements: What Are They and How Do They Affect Your Property?

Posted by Phil Boren on Saturday, September 28th, 2013 at 11:13am.

Easements: What are they and how might they affect your home?  There's an old saying in real estate - "Under all, is the land".  Translated, what that really means in layman's terms is that no matter what you build on it, how you improve it, or how badly you take care of it, the land is always there.  Think about it, even in a devastating fire, when the fire is gone ... the land remains.

Easements are basically limited rights to use a parcel of land.  There's such a thing as a general easement, which blankets the entire parcel, and a specific easement that covers a defined portion of the parcel.  A common easement you might see on a typical parcel of subdivided land might be a drainage easement, or a utility easement covering the north 10 feet of the lot.  Sometimes you'll see an ingress/egress, or access easement across a parcel of land, giving the right to cross the parcel to (typically), an adjacent land owner.  The holder, or beneficiary of the easement does not own the land, but instead just has a limited right to use it for the purpose defined in the document.

How do these easements affect the land - specifically the value of the land?  In the case of typical utility easements along the peremeter and many times within the required setback area anyway, easements can actually bring value to the land, as they allow for the installation and maintenance of valuable utilities like municipal water, sewer, telephone, electricity, etc.

There are cases, though, where the presence of an easement can potentially detract from the land because it could impede its use, access, and/or development.  In these cases, there can be some potential remedies, like reducing a broad, general easement to a more specific easement, that can generate some reief.  Some easement disputes end up in court.

The best way to know whether a parcel of land is affected by any easements is to 1) review a current title commitment from a title company, and 2) review a current survey.  These instruments will allow you to review and visualize all the easements on record with the county, and make some judgements about how, or if they impact the site.

If yu have any questions about buying or selling a NorCal home, please feel free to contact us or visit us online.

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Phil Boren
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