|Part of the common law series|
|Estates in land|
|Future use control|
|Other common law areas|
Higher category: Law and Common law
An easement is a nonpossessory right to use and/or enter onto the real property of another without possessing it. It is "best typified in the right of way which one landowner, A, may enjoy over the land of another, B".It is similar to real covenants and equitable servitudes; in the United States, the Restatement (Third) of Property takes steps to merge these concepts as servitudes.
Easements are helpful for providing pathways across two or more pieces of property, allowing individuals to access other properties or a resource, for example to fish in a privately owned pond or to have access to a public beach. An easement is considered as a property right in itself at common law and is still treated as a type of property in most jurisdictions.
The rights of an easement holder vary substantially among jurisdictions. Historically, the common law courts would enforce only four types of easement:
Modern courts recognize more varieties of easements, but these original categories still form the foundation of easement law.
An affirmative easement is the right to use another property for a specific purpose, and a negative easement is the right to prevent another from performing an otherwise lawful activity on their own property.
For example, an affirmative easement might allow land owner A to drive their cattle over the land of B. A has an affirmative easement from B.
Conversely, a negative easement might restrict land owner A from putting up a wall of trees that would block the adjacent land owner B's mountain view. A is subject to a negative easement from B.
As defined by Evershed MR in Re Ellenborough Park  Ch 131, an easement requires the existence of at least two parties. The party gaining the benefit of the easement is the dominant estate (or dominant tenement), while the party granting the benefit or suffering the burden is the servient estate (or servient tenement).
For example, the owner of parcel A holds an easement to use a driveway on parcel B to gain access to A's house. Here, parcel A is the dominant estate, receiving the benefit, and parcel B is the servient estate, granting the benefit or suffering the burden.
A private easement is held by private individuals or entities. A public easement grants an easement for a public use, for example, to allow the public an access over a parcel owned by an individual.
In the US, an easement appurtenant is one that benefits the dominant estate and "runs with the land" and so generally transfers automatically when the dominant estate is transferred. An appurtenant easement allows property owners to access land that is only accessible through a neighbor's land.
Conversely, an easement in gross benefits an individual or a legal entity, rather than a dominant estate. The easement can be for a personal use (for example, an easement to use a boat ramp) or a commercial use (for example, an easement to a railroad company to build and maintain a rail line across property). Historically, an easement in gross was neither assignable nor inheritable, but commercial easements are now freely transferable to a third party. They are divisible but must be exclusive (the original owner no longer uses it and exclusive to easement holder) and all holders of the easement must agree to divide. If subdivided, each subdivided parcel enjoys the easement.
A floating easement exists when there is no fixed location, route, method, or limit to the right of way.For example, a right of way may cross a field, without any visible path, or allow egress through another building for fire safety purposes. A floating easement may be public or private, appurtenant or in gross.
One case defined it as "(an) easement defined in general terms, without a definite location or description, is called a floating or roving easement...."Furthermore, "a floating easement becomes fixed after construction and cannot thereafter be changed."
Some legal scholars classify structural encroachments as a type of easement.[ citation needed ]
In British energy law and real property law, a wayleave is a type of easement used by a utility that allows a linesman to enter the premises, "to install and retain their cabling or piping across private land in return for annual payments to the landowner". Like a license or profit-à-prendre , "[a] Wayleave is normally a temporary arrangement and does not automatically transfer to a new owner or occupier."More generally, a wayleave agreement can be used for any service provider.
In the United States, an easement in gross is used for such needs, especially for permanent rights.
An access easement provides access from a public right of way to a parcel of land. For example, if Zach and James own neighboring parcels of land, Zach's parcel may have easement rights to cross James's parcel from a public right of way. In such a case, Zach's "dominant" parcel would contain an access easement to cross James's "servient" parcel.
Easements are most often created by express language in binding documents. Parties generally grant an easement to another, or reserve an easement for themselves. Under most circumstances having a conversation with another party is not sufficient. Courts have also recognized creation of easements in other ways.
An easement may be implied or express. An express easement may be "granted" or "reserved" in a deed or other legal instrument. Alternatively, it may be incorporated by reference to a subdivision plan by "dedication", or in a restrictive covenant in the agreement of an owners association. Generally, the doctrines of contract law are central to disputes regarding express easements while disputes regarding implied easements usually apply the principles of property law.
Implied easements are more complex and are determined by the courts based on the use of a property and the intention of the original parties, who can be private or public/government entities. Implied easements are not recorded or explicitly stated until a court decides a dispute, but reflect the practices and customs of use for a property. Courts typically refer to the intent of the parties, as well as prior use, to determine the existence of an implied easement.
A government authority or private service provider may acquire an implied easement over private land by virtue of the public service it performs. For example, a local authority may have the responsibility of installing and maintaining the sewage system in an urban area. Merely by the fact that it has that responsibility, usually enshrined in some statute or local laws, may give the authority the right, by virtue of an implied easement, to enter private property to carry out installation and maintenance. The location of the easement will not usually be described precisely, but its general position will be defined by the service route (i.e., the sewer pipes in this example). Power and water lines may also have implied easements linked to them, but drainage and stormwater systems are commonly precisely defined in location and recorded in the title documents for private land.
Despite the name, necessity alone is an insufficient claim to create any easement. Parcels without access to a public way may have an easement of access over adjacent land if crossing that land is absolutely necessary to reach the landlocked parcel and there has been some original intent to provide the lot with access, and the grant was never completed or recorded but is thought to exist. A court order is necessary to determine the existence of an easement by necessity. To obtain this generally the party who claims the easement files a lawsuit, and the judge weighs the relative damage caused by enforcing an easement against the servient estate against the damage to the dominant estate if the easement is found not to exist and is thus landlocked.
Because this method of creating an easement requires imposing a burden (the easement) upon another party for the benefit of the landlocked owner, the court looks to the original circumstances in weighing the relative apportionment of benefit and burden to both lots in making its equitable determination whether such easement shall be created by the court. This method of creating an easement, being an active creation by a court of an otherwise non-existent right, may be automatically extinguished upon termination of the necessity (for example, if a new public road is built adjacent to the landlocked tenement or another easement is acquired without regard to comparison of ease or practicality between the imposed easement and any valid substitute).
There is also an unwritten form of easement referred to as an implied easement or easement by implication, arising from the original subdivision of the land for continuous and obvious use of the adjacent parcel (e.g., for access to a road, or to a source of water) such as the right of lot owners in a subdivision to use the roadway on the approved subdivision plan without requiring a specific grant of easement to each new lot when first conveyed. An easement by necessity is distinguished from an easement by implication in that the easement by necessity arises only when "strictly necessary", whereas the easement by implication can arise when "reasonably necessary". Easement by necessity is a higher standard by which to imply an easement.
In India, easement of necessity could be claimed only in such cases where transfer, bequeathment or partition necessitates such claim.
As an example, some U.S. state statutes grant a permanent easement of access to any descendant of a person buried in a cemetery on private property.
In some states, such as New York, this type of easement is called an easement of necessity.
An easement may also be created by prior use. Easements by prior use are based on the idea that land owners can intend to create an easement, but forget to include it in the deed.
There are five elements to establish an easement by prior use:
A owns two lots. One lot has access to a public street and the second is tucked behind it and fully landlocked. A's driveway leads from the public street, across the first lot and onto the second lot to A's house. A then sells off the first lot but forgets to reserve a driveway easement in the deed.
A originally had common ownership of both properties. A also used the driveway during this period. A then severed the land. Although A did not reserve an easement, the driveway is obviously on the property and a reasonable buyer would know what it is for. Finally, the driveway is reasonably necessary for a residential plot; how else could A get to the street?
Here, there is an implied easement.
Easements by prescription, also called prescriptive easements, are implied easements granted after the dominant estate has used the property in a hostile, continuous and open manner for a statutorily prescribed number of years. Prescriptive easements differ from adverse possession by not requiring exclusivity.
Once they become legally binding, easements by prescription hold the same legal weight as written or implied easements. But, before they become binding, they hold no legal weight and are broken if the true property owner takes appropriate acts to defend their ownership rights. Easement by prescription is typically found in legal systems based on common law, although other legal systems may also allow easement by prescription.
Laws and regulations vary among local and national governments, but some traits are common to most prescription laws:
Unlike fee simple adverse possession, prescriptive easements typically do not require exclusivity. In states that do, such as Virginia, the exclusivity requirement has been interpreted to mean that the prescriptive user must use the easement in a way that is different than the general public, i.e., a use that is "exclusive" to that user, Callahan v. White, 238 Va. 10, 381 S.E.2d 1 (1989).
The period of continuous use for a prescriptive easement to become binding is generally between 5 and 30 years depending upon local laws (sometimes based on the statute of limitations on trespass). Generally, if the true property owner acts appropriately to defend their property rights at any time during the required time period the hostile use will end, claims on adverse possession rights are voided, and the continuous use time period will be reset to zero.
In some jurisdictions, if the use is not hostile but given actual or implied consent by the legal property owner, the prescriptive easement may become a regular or implied easement rather than a prescriptive easement and immediately becomes binding. An example of this is the lengthy Irish Lissadell House rights of way case heard since 2010, that extended long-standing consents given to individuals into a public right of way.
In other jurisdictions, such permission immediately converts the easement into a terminable license, or restarts the time for obtaining a prescriptive easement.
Government- or railroad-owned property is generally immune from prescriptive easement in most cases, but some other types of government owned-property may be subject to prescription in certain instances. In New York, such government property is subject to a longer statute of limitations of action, 20 years instead of 10 years for private property.[ citation needed ]
In most U.S. jurisdictions, a prescriptive easement can only be determined for an affirmative easement not a negative easement. In all U.S. jurisdictions, an easement for view (which is a negative easement) cannot be created by prescription.
Prescription may also be used to end an existing legal easement. For example, if a servient tenement (estate) holder were to erect a fence blocking a legally deeded right-of-way easement, the dominant tenement holder would have to act to defend their easement rights during the statutory period or the easement might cease to have legal force, even though it would remain a deeded document. Failure to use an easement leading to loss of the easement is sometimes referred to as "non-user".
Under the civil law of Quebec possessors with the animus (will) to be owners can acquire a right of ownership (or to a dismemberment of ownership if animus is to inclined) as long as the nature of possession is peaceful, continuous, public and unequivocal throughout. (According to article 2922 of the Civil Code of Quebec or CCQ) the prescribed period is 10 years (2917–2920 CCQ), except as otherwise provided by law. (2918 sets a different time for unregistered property. Reduced from 30 years.)
Exceptions to prescription: Possession cannot establish a servitude under 1181 CCQ, but non-use of a servitude will extinguish it.
In the state of Louisiana, a mixed legal jurisdiction with strong civil law roots, prescription can be either acquisitive or liberative, both of which involve the creation or extinguishing of rights over time. Acquisitive prescription in Louisiana is analogous to the common law idea of adverse possession. As defined in La. C.C. Art. 3446, "acquisitive prescription is a mode of acquiring ownership or other real rights by possession for a period of time."Unlike the common law adverse position, Louisiana's acquisitive prescription is not a procedural bar to recovering property but the creation of a new ownership right in the property. Time periods for acquisitive prescription depend on whether the property is movable or immovable and whether the property is possessed in good faith (possessor believes they have title to the property) or in bad faith.
Liberative prescription is analogous to the common law statute of limitations. As defined in La. C.C. Art. 3447, "liberative prescription is a mode of barring of actions as a result of inaction for a period of time."It can be renewed by the party who has gained its protection. For example, a debtor's admission that a debt is still owed renews the creditor's claim against the debtor and starts the tolling of another prescriptive period. This differs from peremption, which is a fixed time for the existence of a legal right and which cannot be renewed like liberative prescription.
When a property owner misrepresents the existence of an easement while selling a property and does not include in the deed to the buyer an express easement over an adjoining property that the seller owns, a court may step in and create an easement. Easements by estoppel generally look to any promises not made in writing, any money spent by the benefiting party in reliance on the representations of the burdened party, and other factors. If the court finds that the buyer acted reasonably and in good faith and relied on the seller's promises, the court may create an easement by estoppel.
For example: Ray sells land to Joe on the promise that Joe can use Ray's driveway and bridge to the main road at any time, but Ray does not include the easement in the deed to the land. Joe, deciding that the land is now worth the price, builds a house and connects a garage to Ray's driveway. If Ray (or his successor) later decides to gate off the driveway and prevent Joe (or Joe's successor) from accessing the driveway, a court would likely find an easement by estoppel.
Because Joe purchased the land believing that there would be access to the bridge and the driveway and Joe then paid for a house and a connection, Joe can be said to rely on Ray's promise of an easement. Ray materially misrepresented the facts to Joe. In order to preserve equity, the court will likely find an easement by estoppel.
On the other hand, if Ray had offered access to the bridge and driveway after selling Joe the land, there may not be an easement by estoppel. In this instance, it is merely inconvenient if Ray revokes access to the driveway. Joe did not purchase the land and build the house in reliance on access to the driveway and bridge. Joe will need to find a separate theory to justify an easement.
In the United States, easements may be acquired (bought) by the government using its power of eminent domain in a condemnation proceeding in the courts. Note that in the United States, in accordance with the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, property cannot simply be taken by the government unless the property owner is compensated for the fair market value of what is taken. This is true whether the government acquires full ownership of the property ("fee title") or a lesser property interest, such as an easement. For example, utility providers are typically granted jurisdiction-wide easement to access and maintain their existing infrastructure.
In the law of England and Wales following the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into English law, any deprivation of the rights of the owner of property must be "in accordance with law" as well as "necessary in a democratic society" and "proportionate".
Licenses to use property in a nonpossessory manner are similar to but more limited than easements and are, under certain circumstances, transformed into easements by the courts. Some general differences do exist:
Easements are regarded as a broader and more powerful than licenses, and licenses that have any of the properties of an easement may be bound by the higher standards for termination granted by an easement.
A party claiming termination should show one or more of the following factors:
The following rights are recognized of an easement:
Blocking access to someone who has an easement is a trespass upon the easement and creates a cause of action for civil suit. For example, putting up a fence across a long-used public path through private property may be a trespass and a court may order the obstacle removed. Turning off the water supply to a downstream neighbor may similarly trespass on the neighbor's water easement.
Open and continuous trespassing upon an easement can lead to the extinguishment of an easement by prescription (see above) if no action is taken to cure the limitation over an extended period.
Under the Torrens title system of land ownership registration, easements and mortgages are recorded on the titles kept in the central land registry or cadastre. Any unrecorded easement is not recognised and no easement by prescription or implication may be claimed. In Australia, easements may only be created by prescription or implication under Torrens land if it was created prior to that land being brought under the Torrens system, or there is an exception to indefeasibility.
In United States constitutional law, a regulatory taking is a situation in which a government regulation limits the uses of private property to such a degree that the regulation effectively deprives the property owners of economically reasonable use or value of their property to such an extent that it deprives them of utility or value of that property, even though the regulation does not formally divest them of title to it.
In property law, a title is a bundle of rights in a piece of property in which a party may own either a legal interest or equitable interest. The rights in the bundle may be separated and held by different parties. It may also refer to a formal document, such as a deed, that serves as evidence of ownership. Conveyance of the document may be required in order to transfer ownership in the property to another person. Title is distinct from possession, a right that often accompanies ownership but is not necessarily sufficient to prove it. In many cases, possession and title may each be transferred independently of the other. For real property, land registration and recording provide public notice of ownership information.
This aims to be a complete list of the articles on real estate.
Adverse possession, sometimes colloquially described as "squatter's rights", is a legal principle under which a person who does not have legal title to a piece of property — usually land — acquires legal ownership based on continuous possession or occupation of the property without the permission of its legal owner.
In the United States, a plat (plan) is a cadastral map, drawn to scale, showing the divisions of a piece of land. United States General Land Office surveyors drafted township plats of Public Lands Surveys to show the distance and bearing between section corners, sometimes including topographic or vegetation information. City, town or village plats show subdivisions broken into blocks with streets and alleys. Further refinement often splits blocks into individual lots, usually for the purpose of selling the described lots; this has become known as subdivision.
A profit, in the law of real property, is a nonpossessory interest in land similar to the better-known easement, which gives the holder the right to take natural resources such as petroleum, minerals, timber, and wild game from the land of another. Indeed, because of the necessity of allowing access to the land so that resources may be gathered, every profit contains an implied easement for the owner of the profit to enter the other party's land for the purpose of collecting the resources permitted by the profit.
An equitable servitude is a term used in the law of real property to describe a nonpossessory interest in land that operates much like a covenant running with the land. In England and Wales the term is defunct and in Scotland it has very long been a sub-type of the Scottish legal version of servitudes, which are what English law calls easements. However covenants and equitable servitudes in most of the jurisdictions across North America, are slightly different. The usual distinction is based on the remedy plaintiff seeks and precedent will allow for the scenario in question. Where the terms are unmerged, holders of a covenant seek money damages; holders of equitable servitudes seek injunctions. The term used to exist in England widely before Tulk v Moxhay and as byproduct of the Judicature Acts became one of the fullest mergers of equity and common law in England and Wales so as to agree initially on the term "equitable covenant", then coming to be united in the term covenant save that "equitable" bears a particular meaning in English property rights since at least 1925: it means not fully compliant with registration/written formalities. If lacks legally routine formalities it is not a full legal covenant and therefore more tenuous, often only enforceable personally and against the original covenantor.
A covenant, in its most general sense and historical sense, is a solemn promise to engage in or refrain from a specified action. Under historical English common law a covenant was distinguished from an ordinary contract by the presence of a seal. Because the presence of a seal indicated an unusual solemnity in the promises made in a covenant, the common law would enforce a covenant even in the absence of consideration. In United States contract law, an implied covenant of good faith is presumed.
A servitude is a qualified beneficial interest severed or fragmented from the ownership of an inferior property and attached to a superior property or to some person other than the owner. At civil law, ownership (dominium) is the only full real right whereas a servitude is a subordinate real right on par with wayleaves, real burdens, security interests, and reservations. There are two types: predial, attaching to property, and personal, attaching to a person.
In real estate, a lot or plot is a tract or parcel of land owned or meant to be owned by some owner(s). A plot is essentially considered a parcel of real property in some countries or immovable property in other countries. Possible owner(s) of a plot can be one or more person(s) or another legal entity, such as a company/corporation, organization, government, or trust. A common form of ownership of a plot is called fee simple in some countries.
A dominant estate is the parcel of real property that has an easement over another piece of property. The type of easement involved may be an appurtenant easement that benefits another parcel of land, or an easement appurtenant, that benefits a person or entity. The easement may also be an affirmative easement, that permits a person to do something on the servient estate, or a negative easement that allows the holder of the easement to restrict activity on the servient estate. Estate is a common law concept.
Moncrieff v Jamieson  UKHL 42 is a Scottish property law case decided by the House of Lords on servitudes.
Easements in English law are certain rights in English land law that a person has over another's land. Rights recognised as easements range from very widespread forms of rights of way, most rights to use service conduits such as telecommunications cables, power supply lines, supply pipes and drains, rights to use communal gardens and rights of light to more strained and novel forms. All types are subject to general rules and constraints. As one of the formalities in English law express, express legal easements must be created by deed.
Copeland v Greenhalf  Ch 488 is an English property law case establishing that excessive use of another's land cannot be granted by way of an easement. The defendant claimed that he held a prescriptive right to leave an unlimited number of cars on his neighbour's land, by way of such a right having existed for some fifty years previously. The court found that the claim would amount to the defendant effectively becoming a joint user of the plaintiff's land, and this was not something which could be implied as a right.
South African property law regulates the "rights of people in or over certain objects or things." It is concerned, in other words, with a person's ability to undertake certain actions with certain kinds of objects in accordance with South African law. Among the formal functions of South African property law is the harmonisation of individual interests in property,the guarantee and protection of individual rights with respect to property, and the control of proprietary relationships between persons, as well as their rights and obligations. The protective clause for property rights in the Constitution of South Africa stipulates those proprietary relationships which qualify for constitutional protection. The most important social function of property law in South Africa is to manage the competing interests of those who acquire property rights and interests. In recent times, restrictions on the use of and trade in private property have been on the rise.
London and Blenheim Estates Ltd v Ladbroke Retail Parks Ltd  4 All ER 157 is an English land law case, concerning easements. It persuasively confirmed for one of the first times, obiter, that parking a car on land on its own could be the appropriate subject matter for an express easement. It established that an arrangement for a future extension of easement rights over specific other land would require a specific parcel of dominant land too. Simply agreeing that wherever any dominant land is extended the easement on the servient land will be extended is insufficient.
Das v Linden Mews Ltd EWCA Civ 590 is an English land law case, concerning rights of way.
Crow v Wood EWCA Civ 5 is an English land law case, confirming an easement commonly exists for the right to have a fence or wall kept in repair expressed in earlier deeds, which is a right which is capable of being "granted" by law and secondly, as a separate but on the facts, related issue, of the right of common land pasture asserted by continued use.
General Land Office Easements were legal mechanisms which created right of way to ensure future access through, and to the interior of, lots or parcels created by the U.S. Small Tract Act of 1938,.
Prescription in Scots law allows the creation or extinction of personal and real rights. There are two forms of prescription: (1) positive prescription, which creates certain real rights, and (2) negative prescription, which extinguishes both personal and real rights. Prescription is different from limitation, which prevents the raising of court proceedings or litigation in relation to civil law matters in Scottish courts, primarily affecting personal injury claims arising from delict as these are exempt from prescription. The terms prescription and limitation are used in other jurisdictions to describe similar rules, mainly due to shared Roman law and Civil law heritage.
|Look up easement in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|