What Are the Different Kinds of Easements?

An easement is a nonpossessory right in land not owned by the easement holder. While the landowner retains exclusive ownership rights to the land affected by the easement, the easement holder is permitted to use the land affected by the easement for specific purposes. The notable exception to this general definition is the preservation of light, a view, or other aspects of a landowner’s existing property through negative easements. Negative easements prohibit certain actions on neighboring properties that affect the landowner’s existing property rights.

Understanding the different kinds of easements that exist is important, both when trying to obtain an easement and trying to defend against an easement action. Not all easements are created equal; understanding their nuances will help you make informed decisions about your specific property-related circumstances

Easement Types

Affirmative Easement – More common than negative easements, affirmative easements allow the easement holder to use land that they don’t own. This use is limited to the specific purpose(s) outlined in the easement.

Easement by Necessity – Unlike prescriptive easements, easements by necessity are created via court order. These easements allow a landowner to access a parcel of land by crossing another landowner’s land when there is no other way to access the parcel in question. Generally, the history of the land must suggest that there was originally an intent to allow for an easement.

Express Easement – An easement agreed to by the landowner, in writing, which allows others to use their land for a specific purpose.

Implied Easement – An easement created not through writing but by a history of prior use.

Negative Easement – Preserves the landowner’s rights by prohibiting specific actions that may be taken on neighboring property. This type of easement is often used to preserve the views of an existing landowner.

Prescriptive Easement – Created by continual use of another’s land without the landowner’s permission, through in such a way that the landowner should be reasonably aware of that usage. Prescriptive easements can only be created after continuous use over a specific period outlined in state law.

Private Easement – This term may be used to describe the transference of an existing easement to another easement holder through private sale or to describe an easement that benefits a limited number of persons, as opposed to an easement designed to benefit the general public.

Utility Easement – Only utility companies and municipalities can serve as easement holders for this type of easement. Essentially, this kind of easement allows a utility company and/or city government to access specific areas of a landowner’s property for the purpose of laying and/or maintaining sewer, electric, gas, water, and other resource lines. This easement may be written into a landowner’s property agreement and is passed to the next landowner when property is sold or otherwise transferred.

Legal Assistance Is Available

If you have questions about your rights as a landowner or about the process of obtaining an easement, do not hesitate to connect with an experienced real estate attorney today. Speaking up now may save you a great deal of time and stress down the road, regardless of whether you’re hoping to defend against an easement action or you’re seeking to obtain an easement. Scheduling a risk-free consultation will help to clarify your situation and will better ensure that your rights are protected moving forward.