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Understanding Easements and Rights-of-Way

An easement consists of permanent property rights allowing a party to use the land or property of another for the purposes defined in the easement. Right-of-way is a type of easement that gives someone the right to travel across property owned by another person. For example, if you own property and a utility company has a transmission line or main gas line passing under your land, it is likely that they will have a registered easement that will guarantee them access to the line and restrict uses that would hamper access or cause safety concerns.

Examples of Easements and Rights-of-Way

Easements

  • Access roads
  • Utilities
  • Pathways/walkways
  • Right to park
  • Right of light and air

Rights-of-Way

  • Utility corridors
  • Power lines
  • Sewer/water lines
  • Gas/oil transmission lines

Easements are perpetual and are not subject to termination or expiration. They "run with the land" and are automatically transferred from one owner to another as the land is sold. The holder of the easement can, at some point, choose to release their rights by consent of the agreement holder or by judge’s order. An argument for removal must be based upon proof that the easement is no longer needed.

Who maintains the property subject to an easement or right-of-way?

Maintenance of the property is the responsibility of the landowner. If the holder of the easement or right-of-way causes any damage, they must restore the property to the original condition or pay damages. Structures owned by the holder of the easement are not the responsibility of the landowner. The holder of an easement is not required to pay for damages to a landowner’s improvements that are located on the easement area contrary to the agreement.

Will a building permit include information about easements?

No! All landowners should check the title for any easement or right-of-way agreement prior to undertaking any major construction or alteration to their property. It is the landowner’s responsibility to know!

What happens if I build on an easement or right-of-way?

The landowner may be faced with all costs of removal and any associated damages resulting from unauthorized location of improvements on land that is subject to an easement or right-of-way. This fact sheet is not a legal document. It is meant to provide general information about easements and rights-of-way. Please contact your legal professional with specific questions.

This fact sheet is not a legal document. It is meant to provide general information about easements and rights-of-way. Please contact your legal professional with specific questions.