Imagine this: You’re sitting in the kitchen of your new home when you see a stranger walk right through your backyard on their way somewhere else. You throw on your shoes and go out to confront them. To your surprise, they tell you they have always passed this way.
In fact, they say they have a legal right to cut through your property due to a long-standing easement.
What is an easement?
An easement is a legal right to use part of someone else’s property. Generally, easements are given with specific conditions, such as the right to pass to access something else. For instance, your neighbor may have an easement on your property to allow her to access her vegetable patch on a separate piece of land.
Easements can be quite common in some areas. For example, if you have a home near a public beach, an easement may allow people to pass through a narrow strip of land that you own on their way to that spot.
Not all easements are like, naturally. A construction company may secure an easement to bring machinery over your driveway for the length of time it takes them to build a house. Or a property owner may grant one to their neighbor for the length of time they own the property. However, some easements are not time-restricted. They continue even when the property changes hands.
Can you get rid of an easement?
What happens if you want to stop your neighbor from walking past your window and over your land? If the easement is still in force, you cannot block the path without risking a lawsuit. If she has deviated from the original purpose, you may be able to take legal action yourself. Another option is to offer to buy the easement.
Easements are one of many potential issues you need to clarify when doing pre-purchase checks on a property. The seller should disclose it, but it pays to be sure. Working with an experienced real estate attorney before (or after) purchase can help.