A property easement is a legal right granted to someone – other than a property’s owner – allowing them access to or use of that property for a specific purpose.
These purposes can vary widely, from granting utility companies the right to install and maintain infrastructure to providing neighbors access through a portion of your property so that they can reach the local fishing hole on the other side of your land.
What’s the difference between easements in gross and easements appurtenant?
When evaluating the impact of an easement on the value or useability of a piece of property, it can be helpful to start by determining whether or not it is an easement in gross or an easement appurtenant.
An easement in gross is tied to a particular person or entity, regardless of who owns the property that is affected. Easements in gross typically cannot be transferred or inherited (unless that ability was part of the agreement that created the easement in the first place). They also do not automatically transfer when the property is sold. In other words, an easement in gross only encumbers your land so long as you own it.
An easement appurtenant, however, is a permanent encumbrance on the property and is tied to the land, so they transfer with the land when the property changes hands. For example, if your neighbor up the hill has an easement that allows them to build and use an access road to the main highway through the edge of your property, an easement appurtenant will grant all future owners of your neighbor’s home that same right.
Here’s the thing: It is not uncommon for people to disagree about whether an easement is an easement in gross or an easement appurtenant. Since an easement appurtenant can be imposed out of necessity or through implication, it is possible to end up in an unexpected dispute over someone’s accustomed right of access.
If you’re concerned about an easement, it may be time to seek legal assistance so that you can evaluate your situation in more personalized detail.