If you buy a home with an easement, do you have to honor it?

An easement is an agreement that allows someone else to use a piece of real estate in a specific way. For instance, a property owner who does not have access to the nearest road may have an easement with their neighbor allowing them to cross their property or use their driveway.

If you buy a home that already has an easement, you had nothing to do with setting that up and you never agreed to it. Do you have to honor the agreement that was made by the previous homeowner?

It depends on what type of easement was used

The key is what type of easement was set up originally, which is something you should be informed of before you make the purchase.

For instance, an easement in gross is one that was granted to a specific individual, or to a business or other type of corporate entity. For example, a utility provider may have an easement in gross that allows them to enter the property to do maintenance. A new owner often has the option to deny this if they don’t want to allow the easement in the future, but this can be complicated and may lead to court cases in certain situations. 

On the other hand, an easement appurtenant is generally connected to the property itself, rather than to an individual. This means that it can only be dissolved if both owners agree. If you buy the property, you can’t cancel the easement. Even being the property owner doesn’t give you that right without the agreement of the other owner. This is why it’s important to know that there’s an easement before you buy.

If you do find yourself in a complicated real estate situation, it’s more important than ever to have the assistance you need to sort out the details.