Understanding Easements

In 2018, a Michigan man shot his neighbor to death while she used a snowplow to clear snow from the driveway the two neighbors shared as an easement.

There had reportedly been problems between the two families over the driveway easement prior to the murder, and police had been called to the homes several times to address the easement issues.

It is not the only time there has been a death as a result of an easement dispute, and it likely won’t be the last.

By definition, an easement is a parcel of property that two or more parties can use, without one single person taking complete ownership of it.

There are both public and private easements, but in real estate matters, most easements are private.

A shared driveway – one that includes two or more homes along the stretch of road or one that is situated between two homes, designed for both homeowners to share – is a good example of a private easement.

Homeowners of driveways that are easements as well usually have agreements with one another regarding the use of the shared driveway, especially if one piece of property would be landlocked without the use of the driveway.

Sometimes, the agreements are a handshake, and other times, documentation is drawn up to prevent future disputes over the use of the easement.

But property is a tricky thing, and people often go to great lengths – adding barriers, for example – to prevent others who should be allowed access to them from using the property.

This can result in serious disputes that can end up in court, or worse.

While some easements are built into the contracts included in purchase agreements, others are informal agreements, and a sale would render them null and void.

Examples of easements:

  • The strip of land between a street and a sidewalk is considered a public easement. While the strip of land is public property, the property owner is required to mow the area.
  • A person may live next door to a park or a walking trail, and grants an easement to a neighbor allowing them to access the park through their neighbor’s property.
  • Private land can be acquired for an easement to install cable lines, utility lines, gas lines, or phone lines.

In some situations, easements can make a piece of property less valuable and a less desirable piece of real estate.

If you are considering a piece of property that includes some type of easement or are having trouble with a neighbor regarding an existing easement, call the Auricchio Law Offices today.

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Auricchio Law Offices

Auricchio Law Offices in Chicago provides a complete range of real estate services. We facilitate residential and commercial real estate transactions, advise and represent condominium associations, and represent property owners in real estate litigation. Whatever your real estate issue, we will work diligently to achieve your goals in a timely and efficient manner.

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