Understanding Easements and How They Can Affect Your Property Rights

If you've recently purchased a home and didn't buy title insurance, you may run into some unforeseen issues in the future that you have no protection from. Title insurance is there to protect your interest in the event that something from the property's past comes to light that threatens your right of ownership to that property. There are several potential hazards that a new homeowner may face. This week, Arrowhead Title will be focusing on easements to better help you understand how they can affect your use and rights to a property.


What is an Easement?

An easement is a legal right to use another's land for a specific limited purpose. In other words, when someone is granted an easement, he is granted the legal right to use the property, but the legal title to the land itself remains with the owner of the land. Most commonly, easements are granted to utility companies to run power lines and cable lines. However, you may also grant an easement to your neighbor if your property is in the way of his access to a road, or to anyone else who needs to have a legal right to access your land.

Understanding Types of Easements

There are two general types of easements recognized in Missouri: an Easement Appurtenant or an Easement in Gross.

1. Easement Appurtenant

An easement appurtenant is an easement that benefits one parcel of land, known as the dominant tenement, to the detriment of another parcel of land, known as the servient tenement. Easements appurtenant are attached to the land and are transferred automatically when the servient or dominant tenement is sold to a new owner.

For example, if you own a parcel of land that has access to a river, and grant an easement appurtenant to your neighbor for use of that access, when you sell your property, that easement still stands for the new owner of your property because the easement belongs to the land, not the person. Similarly, if your neighbor sells his property, that new owner will be able to use the easement.

2. Easement in Gross

An easement in gross benefits a person or entity, rather than a parcel of land. If the property is sold to a new owner, the easement is typically transferred with the property. The holder of the easement, however, has a personal right to the easement and is prohibited from transferring the easement to another person or company.

For example, if you own a piece of land, you may grand an easement in gross to a utility company, allowing that company to bury wires or pipes across your property. You can sell the property without terminating the easement, but the utility company cannot transfer the easement to another person or company without the property owner's consent.

How Easements are Created

There are several ways an easement can be created, however, some of the ways are not recognized under common law. Common law provides three ways to establish an easement: Express Easements, Implied Easements, and Prescriptive Easements.

1. Express Easements

Express easements are created by a written agreement between landowners granting or reserving an easement. Express easements must be signed by both parties and are typically recorded with the deeds to each property.

2. Implied Easements

An implied easement may be created if a property that was owned by one owner gets split into separate parcels, and an easement is implied by existing use if it's necessary for the use and enjoyment of one parcel of land. An easement is implied by necessity when one parcel of land is sold, depriving the other parcel of access to a public road or utility.

3. Prescriptive Easements

Prescriptive easements arise if an individual has used an easement in a certain way for a certain number of years. To establish a prescriptive easement, it is necessary to show use that has been continuous, uninterrupted, visible and adverse for a period of 10 years.

For unsuspecting homeowners, these issues can arise and can affect the enjoyment of your property, possibly for years to come. The best way to protect your interest when purchasing a property is to conduct a title search prior to purchasing a property and to purchase an Owner's title insurance policy at the Lake of the Ozarks that can help protect you against any potential title discrepancies that may arise in the future. Don't take the chance of dealing with these title hazards on your own. Let the best title insurance company at the Lake of the Ozarks run a title search for you and put together a title policy that will protect your interest for as long as you or your heirs have a vested interest in the property!

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