If you are buying a house with an easement, what do you need to know?
An easement effectively gives access which entitles you or your neighbours to use your or their land to gain access to a property. More commonly this includes access where a property is otherwise landlocked and you need to access someone else’s land to get to it.
Otherwise, it is more commonly to be used for maintenance purposes for example to access a shared septic tank, for utility companies to access, repair or replace services and allowing drainage pipes or cables to run above or below your land.
There are various types of easement so it is important to understand the differences and what your obligations are if you buy a property subject to one.
• Express Grant or Reservation - This is typically set out in the deed transferring the land from the seller to the buyer.
• Implied easement - Something is suggested but not granted in writing.
• Prescriptive easement - An easement where long continuous use of the right can be shown. The period of use must be uninterrupted for twenty years.
Easements don’t normally affect your day to day enjoyment and use of the property or your ability to apply for a mortgage on a property. But before buying a property with an Implied, Prescriptive or Express Grant or Reservation easement, it is worth taking the time to fully understand what it means, so that there are no misunderstandings or disputes at a later date.
For example, one of the most common types of easement is where neighbours share a driveway. There would typically be an obligation for each party to contribute towards the costs of repairs and maintenance, but there may be times when parties cannot agree to the extent of the work needed and also the costs. An easement should clearly set out the obligations of each person involved. If you are buying a property with such an easement you can ask your solicitor to make enquiries to find out if there are any ongoing disputes about access, payments, or outstanding maintenance issues.
Unless specified in the easement you shouldn’t assume you can use a shared driveway to store objects – from vehicles, dustbins to building materials being delivered, as this could block access for your neighbour. Ask visitors to your property to park considerately and if you want to put up gates or fencing it would be better to discuss this with the other neighbours accessing it first to ensure there is no disagreement.
As with all aspects of buying a house, make sure you understand everything and if in any doubt, ask your solicitor to double check for you as part of the conveyancing process.
Alan Williams can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org