Corder's Corner

Easing Into Easement Basics

Easements are common, especially in the world of real estate. If you own a residential property, the utility company has an easement for access to power lines or meters to your property. An easement is defined as an interest in the land in and over which it is enjoyed. It is an agreement defined by a contract that allows for the legal use of the property without actually owning the property.

Our company Corder and Associates gets calls often inquiring about properties listed with no legal access. How is that possible they ask? In the state of Montana, it is not illegal to have landlocked parcels, and owners do not have to allow access through their property to get to yours. We have sold numerous pieces of Montana land that are inaccessible. Buyers have the option of negotiating an easement with the surrounding land owners or accessing the land via boat (if waterfront) or plane. Bare land that ideally makes for a perfect homesite or recreational land may not come with easy access. A spot for a driveway might be through a corner of the neighbor’s property. This is another case in which an easement would be needed.

There are three basic types of easements: public, private, and prescriptive. A public easement is one in which the government grants and provides an easement to an individual or organization the right to use public lands such as parks, trails, or waterways. A private easement is between two parties that agree on the right to use someone else’s property for their own benefit. A prescriptive easement is established after the continuous use of property openly, notoriously, exclusively, adversely, and uninterruptedly for a period of five years. This particular easement is the most difficult to enforce as it must be shown or proven. Property owners can also utilize easements to preserve land in a particular state of manner. A conservation easement essentially means an owner relinquishes rights and grants permission for certain activities. Read our article on conservation easements to learn more about these specific types and how they can be beneficial!

An executed easement is a legally binding contract and therefore has consequences if violated. In addition, the holder of an easement must agree not to disturb the land of the owner or they can in turn be held liable. In the contract, details such as the 5 w’s are addressed. Who is agreeing to the easement? What is the easement being established for? Where does the easement allow for access? When does the easement take effect and if it expires, when is that? Why is the easement being negotiated? Is there compensation being made to the property owner for the easement?

When dealing with farm and ranch land, easements typically transfer with the sale of a property and they are common. Easements generally do not negatively impact the value of one’s property unless it severely restricts the use of the property. A qualified real estate broker can help you determine if an easement affects your property’s value. Corder and Associates can also help you buy or sell a property that may be affected by an easement. Please trust us with helping you get the answers you need so you can enjoy the property you seek!

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