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Helping You Navigate Complex Legal Issues

What's a real estate easement?

Gregory A. Lang

A real estate easement is the right of another party to trespass on -- or even use -- a piece of land that someone else owns. Often, easements are owned by utility companies or municipalities so that they can build a road, lay pipe or bury electrical cables on a homeowner's property. It's important to be aware of any easements that apply to a given piece of land or property before purchasing it.

Most homes have easements attached to them. However, you should look up any easements that apply to a property in public records before making a purchase because an easement could affect your plans. If you hope to build a swimming pool, for example, an easement could prevent you from being able to do so.

Homeowners also need to be careful not to be fooled by marketing literature attached to their home. A seller might describe a plot of land as "pool-sized" in an advertisement, but nothing can be built on top of an easement. If an easement applies to the part of the property where the pool will be built, the easement will take precedence, and the pool cannot be built.

One of the advantages of contracting a real estate lawyer to assist with your plans to purchase a new home is that your lawyer will research any zoning issues and easement issues that may affect a property you plan to purchase. Your lawyer will then advise you of any potential problems that you might later encounter as a result of these legal challenges.

Source: The Balance, "Definition of Easements," accessed June 15, 2017

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