Not all pieces of real estate are easy to access and use. In some cases, you will need to secure an easement in order to access a piece of property with no road frontage, connect to utilities or otherwise make the best possible use of a piece of land.
Many people assume that easements always transfer with the ownership of real estate, but that is not necessarily the case. Easements generally fall into two categories, and depending on which kind of easement the previous owner has, it may not transfer to you when you purchase the property.
What are the two main kinds of easements?
Most easements are either easements appurtenant or easements in gross. You can usually determine which one applies to a property by looking at the deed or legal description for the property.
An easement appurtenant will usually transfer
Some people call an easement appurtenant a permanent easement. It is common for this kind of easement to be part of the recorded property description, which means that the easement will transfer along with the ownership of the property. These kinds of easements are common for water rights, utility access and shared driveways, among other circumstances.
An easement in gross probably only applies to one owner
Certain easement arrangements are the results of direct negotiations between two neighbors or property owners. One neighbor might agree, for example, to give the other one temporary access to their well water or to other features close to the property line for the benefit of either party. If you purchase a property that has an easement in gross in place, you will have to negotiate a similar easement on your own behalf or lose the rights included in the language of that easement.
Looking at the legal description and the sale paperwork can give you a better idea about the easement in question. Talking with the lawyer about your easement concerns can help you make the right decision or possibly negotiate a new easement if necessary.