When you purchase a piece of property, you may find out that it has an existing easement. It’s worth noting that this should be disclosed to you before you make the offer. The seller has to tell you that the easement exists so that you can take it into account when determining what you’re willing to pay for that land. Many people will offer less because they see the easement as a negative factor impacting the value of the land.
That said, an easement is a legal agreement to give someone else the ability to use at least a portion of the property. Someone may have a long-standing agreement that they can use another person’s driveway to access their own property, which is cut off from the road, for example. You may not want to let them do so after you buy that property, even if the previous owner did, so do you have to honor this easement?
Does it run with the land?
The question to ask is what type of easement you’re looking at. There are cases in which easements are only between two individuals and they are canceled when the property is sold. Known as personal easements, these do not have to be honored by anyone but the two individuals who made the initial agreement.
But it is more common for the easement to “run with the land.” This term means that the easement is connected to the property itself. It has to be honored by anyone who owns that property. It is part of the property, in a sense, not just an agreement between landowners.
The reason for this is that revoking the easement could cause a significant issue for the other property owner. The person whose property is cut off from the highway would lose all access, for example. So new property owners may be obligated to adhere to an easement they didn’t even agree to in the first place.
What should you do next?
If you’re in this situation and you have some questions about your legal obligations and options, be sure you know what steps to take.