Easements can be a problem when you’re buying a piece of property because they generally mean that someone else has a right to use the property in a certain way, even though somebody else may own it. For instance, a utility easement may give city-based contractors the right to run lines and do upkeep. They may even need to cross the boundaries of your land to reach a service area, transformer or some other part of the utility’s structure.
One common type of easement is a “right of way” easement, which means that someone else can pass through your property at will. You are not allowed to inhibit that process. They, likewise, are not allowed to build anything, damage your land, or use it for any reason (other than crossing it as the easement intends).
For example, maybe you have property between your neighbor’s house and the road. They don’t have a driveway that reaches the road. Instead, they have an easement saying they can use your driveway, which splits off and goes onto their property. This doesn’t mean they own the driveway, but they can cross it whenever they want. You cannot put up a gate with a lock to keep them out of the driveway or do anything else to keep them from legally using that driveway. It is still your land, but you’re not the only one with the right to use it.
If you’re buying land, you need to know if it has an easement and how this can impact your legal rights. The same is true if you find yourself in a dispute.