You need to check for several title issues before purchasing real estate. One of those is easements.
An easement is a legal tool that gives one person the right to travel over another person’s property for access. People often put these agreements in place informally, which can cause problems when ownership of the property changes. Here are a few examples:
- The electricity board needs to drive across your land to get to an electricity pylon
- A rail company needs to travel across your property to maintain the rail lines
- A neighbor can only get to his orchard by walking across your back garden
- The restaurant next door needs to drag their bins out for collection across your car park
If you discover a property you wish to purchase has an easement, you need to investigate further.
- Some easements are tied only to the current owner
- Some were only issued for a limited time
- Others may be unlimited
If the easement is due to remain after your purchase, you still have options
You could offer an alternative route, offer to pay to end it, or claim it is invalid if the person no longer uses it for its original purpose. For instance, if the easement was originally designed to allow the restaurant to take its bin out each night, you could argue that it does not permit them to have customers traipsing across your land all day long.
You could also explain to a court how the current easement makes your plans impossible. For instance, if you buy a vacant lot to turn into apartments, you’d think it unreasonable if you could not build because an easement runs through the middle of it.
Getting legal help to check for title issues and possible solutions is crucial before buying real estate.