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What are Easements?

When considering buying land, understanding easements is crucial. Easements are defined as “the right of use over the property of another.” They come into existence when a property has a feature that a neighboring property or entity needs access to or use of. In the context of purchasing land, especially in places like Texas, it’s vital to know if there are any easements involving the property you’re interested in. This could mean neighboring properties having access through the land you want to buy or vice versa. Understanding the specifics of any such arrangements is key to making an informed purchase, as easements can significantly affect how you can use your property. Practical examples of easements include driveways or pathways that cross property lines, utility lines, or shared water access.

Main types of easements:

An easement appurtenant is permanently attached to the land. A common example is when Property A does not have access to the main road except by driving across Property B. When the ownership of either property changes, the right of use, or the obligation to give the easement, remains in place.

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An easement in gross is a legal right to use the property of another without owning any part of it and is tied to a specific person or entity rather than the land itself. There are two main types: positive and negative easements.

1. Positive Easement: This involves the right to use someone else’s land for a specific purpose. A classic example is the owner of Property A allowing the owner of Property B to pick fruit from their orchard. This is a benefit to Property B’s owner without transferring ownership of the land.

2. Negative Easement: This restricts the owner from performing certain actions that could harm or disadvantage the neighboring property. For example, Property A’s owner might agree not to build a structure that blocks the view of Property B. Negative easements are often about maintaining the quality of surroundings or views.

Easements in gross are not necessarily permanent and can end by mutual agreement, or when the person or entity it is tied to changes or no longer exists. For example, if an easement in gross is held by an individual and that individual passes away, the easement may terminate unless it’s been specifically arranged to continue beyond the individual’s life.

Utility companies often hold easements in gross for installing and maintaining infrastructure like power lines or water pipes. These easements allow them to access private land for repair or maintenance works.

Lastly, a prescriptive easement can arise over time through continued use without permission, known as adverse possession. For instance, if a neighbor uses a part of your land as a pathway and does so openly, continuously, and without your consent for a certain number of years (which varies by jurisdiction), they might gain legal rights to continue that use. This can be a complex issue when purchasing property, as such easements might not be immediately apparent and can affect your use and enjoyment of the land. Understanding and identifying any such potential or existing easements is an important part of the due diligence process when acquiring property.

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Good Fences Make Good Neighbors.

Easements are usually a good thing. With some give-and-take between neighbors, you can protect your investment, get the utilities you need, and remain on good terms. While the seller is obligated to disclose all easements to prospective buyers, the seller may not always be aware of prescriptive easements. You can check out this article to learn more about easement laws in Texas!

Here at Lonestar Land Sales, we have land expert that will guide you through the due diligence required to make sure you are aware of all easements before buying a property. Call us today if you are ready to buy land near Austin, Dallas, Houston, or San Antonio.

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