An easement is a property right in another person's land. It is limited to a specific place and purpose. Many reasons exist for creation of an easement, but there are several common underlying reasons for them. Those reasons include a landlocked parcel of land, the need for a natural gas pipeline and the needs of a citywide sewer system. None of these problems can be solved without the granting of easements.
A parcel of land remains landlocked when none of its boundaries adjoin a public roadway. The owner of such a parcel requires access, which represents a common underlying reason for an easement. Normally, the owner is only entitled to one easement, and it does not have to be the most convenient route to the highway. Many times it consists of a dirt road that the holder of the easement must maintain.
Without easements it would be impossible for a natural gas company to supply its customers. The pipeline carrying the fuel must pass over numerous private property owners. The owner at the time the easement is granted generally receives compensation. Subsequent owners inherit the easement but do not receive any payment. The landowner must maintain the easement, normally by cutting the grass and keeping it clear of tree branches and leaves. The natural gas company retains the right to service its pipeline, including digging up pipe for replacement or repair.
Municipalities install sewer lines which greatly benefit landowners. The process requires easements which the typical landowner is happy to grant in return for the service provided. When a new development or subdivision is created, it is normally the developer who grants the easement. A map of the development reveals the exact location of the easement. This puts each new landowner on notice when he purchases his lot. Maintenance rights for sewer lines resemble those of natural gas pipelines.
Easements last as long as the need that created them exists. For natural gas pipelines and sewer lines, that is a long time. A landowner should assume that these easements will be in perpetuity. In the case of the landlocked parcel, as long as the owner needs the easement to access his property, the easement will continue to exist.
- Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute: Easement
- National Paralegal College: Introduction to Easements
- Cadden & Fuller LLP: Real Estate Law: Easement Basics
- Jaburg/Wilk: Confirm Your Easement Access
- PG&E: Natural Gas Pipeline Rights-of-Way
- Town of Cary: Easement Maintenance
- City of Colonial Heights Department of Public Works. "Easements - What Is an Easement?," Page 2. Accessed March 11, 2020.
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- Brewer Offord & Pedersen LLP. "What Is This “Easement” Thing In My Preliminary Report?" Accessed March 11, 2020.
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Robert Alley has been a freelance writer since 2008. He has covered a variety of subjects, including science and sports, for various websites. He has a Bachelor of Arts in economics from North Carolina State University and a Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina.