What Are Easements?
An easement gives a person who doesn’t own the property the right to use it. This nonpossessory right to use the land does not give the easement holder the right to occupy the land or block access. Neither does it prohibit the owner of the land from using it. An easement provides access to someone who needs it regardless of the fact that that person does not own the land itself.
There are utility easements for placement of utilities, private easements granted by the landowner to someone else, easements by necessity which provide someone access to their landlocked property via someone else’s property, and prescriptive easements established by the adverse use of someone else’s land over time.
What Are Some Common Easement Disputes?
Three of the more common easement disputes include trespassing, interference, and zoning issues.
- Trespassing is a claim made by the owner of a piece of land if a non-owner is using it to access their property or an entity uses it to place utilities or other infrastructure.
- Interference disputes typically arise when the easement holder asserts the landowner has interfered with or obstructed the easement with, for example, a fence or gate, or something else that interferes with their access.
- Zoning disputes arise between property owners when one believes the other is failing to comply with a zoning issue, such as blocking a view or blocking the light necessary for solar panels. Zoning disputes also arise between commercial and private interests and between property owners and municipalities exercising zoning ordinances.
How Are Disputes Resolved?
Some easement disputes may be resolved privately between the parties, particularly in cases where a new landowner is unaware of an existing easement. In many cases, however, easements are contentious, so it’s wise to work with an experienced real estate lawyer to understand your rights under the law and to put the other party on notice of those rights. Disputes can be resolved through negotiation—and if that fails, through the courts.
Hiring an Experienced Attorney
Real estate attorneys who have represented clients in easement disputes fully understand the laws that establish and protect easements. If a dispute has arisen between you and another party, you can save yourself a tremendous amount of time and effort by consulting with a real estate attorney from the outset. Your attorney can advise you of your rights under the law which may help you resolve the dispute short of going to court. Of course, if necessary, your attorney will represent you and your interests in court.