What is the Difference Between an Easement and Property Encroachment?
Whenever you are in the process of looking for a home to buy at the Lake of the Ozarks, understanding and being aware of easements and encroachments can be important to knowing what property you are actually buying, and how you (and others) may be able to use it. Both easements and encroachments involve one person using land that does not technically belong to them. The simple difference between the two is whether permission is granted to do so. Either way, if you purchase a piece of property with an encroachment or easement, you may be limited in how you can use that property.
Easement is a legal way that someone may use another person’s land, with permission. This is routinely seen with shared driveways, utility lines and infrastructure, shared paths or walkways, etc. It can even be done when it is discovered that a neighbor unknowingly built his deck or addition on your property IF BOTH PARTIES are agreeable to it. The easement can be for a set number of years, or until the property owner sells their property, or it can be attached to the property permanently and stay with the title when the property sells. Easements usually involve some form of financial compensation for being allowed to use property that one party does not own. Having a thorough title search at the Lake of the Ozarks done by a reputable title insurance company is a way to discover whether the property you are interested in has easements attached and exactly what they entail.
A property encroachment is when a neighbor’s belongings cross over the legal property line. As a title company at the Lake of the Ozarks since 1984 we have seen many examples of this with fences, driveways, sheds, decks, and even pools and landscaping intruding on a neighbor’s land. There can be a number of different reasons why this might happen from a lack of/outdated surveys, to poor communication with contractors, to communities where original plats were never followed or corrected. It is not always an intentional attempt to take over someone else’s land. But in some cases, if done for a long enough period, the encroaching party may gain a permanent right to use the land whether the actual owner agrees or not.
What to do.
If you discover that a neighbor is encroaching on your property (or that you are encroaching on a neighbor) the best remedy is to try to work things out between each other on your own. A good way to do that is to develop a solution yourself and approach your neighbor in an open conversation. Let’s say you learn after the fact that your neighbor is encroaching on the land you just purchased. One of you may propose for your neighbor to purchase the land being used without permission. But depending on how many years the neighbor has been using it, they may have a rightful ownership to the property through adverse possession. If that is the case, and it makes a difference as to whether you would want that property, it is good to find out about it BEFORE you purchase.
Getting a title search and title insurance policy at the Lakeof the Ozarks can give you the peace of mind of knowing you have the full ownership of your property that you expect. When you are ready to purchase property at the Lake of the Ozarks, we are here to help with all your real estate closing and escrow services at Arrowhead Title.