Easements are “nonpossessory” property interests that give holders rights to use land owned by someone else. But what exactly does that mean? Easements can pose a variety of legal issues, so it is important to understand them thoroughly.
It’s easier to understand broad concepts when we have concrete examples, so let’s take a look at a few examples of easements.
- A landowner might grant a rail company the use of their property to lay railroad tracks.
- A landowner might grant a neighbor the use of a private path or road that cuts through their property so that the person can get somewhere “landlocked” (closed in by land owned by other people).
- A landowner might grant their city or county the use of their land to run electrical wires.
When created legally, easements become a part of the property. That means that if a buyer purchases property where the previous owner created an easement that allowed a neighboring landowner to use a private path through the land, then the purchaser would also have to allow this easement.
How are easements created?
There are a few different ways easements can be created, and the one that is appropriate depends on the type of easement.
Express easements: These easements are created with a written agreement, which has to be signed by the landowner and the party who will use the easement. This is recorded with the property deeds for both parties.
Prescriptive easements: If someone who is not the landowner has been using the property in a particular way for an extended period of time, a prescriptive easement can be created. This is only possible if the use has been openly (not secretly) done for a continuous period of time. In Oklahoma, the prescriptive period is 15 years.
Do easements expire after a set period of time?
No. Easements are valid indefinitely after their creation. However, you can take measures to end an easement. The two parties can make a written agreement if they both agree to terminate the easement. The easement also ends if the owner of the land that is being used acquires the land previously owned by the person, generally a neighbor, who used the easement. This is called a “merger.” Easement holders can abandon their rights — this is an affirmative action and not using the easement is not the same as legally abandoning it.
How can I learn more about easements or get help with a legal issue related to an easement?
The creation, interpretation, and implementation of easements can easily lead to legal disputes. To better understand their scope and how they impact you and your property, it is necessary to partner with an experienced real estate attorney. At Pence Law Firm, P.C. we have the knowledge and experience to help you with all of your real estate legal needs. Give us a call at (918) 367-8505 to learn more.