9 Kinds of Easements

By Luke Smith for Land Academy

When it comes to dealing with land, I find myself reading legal descriptions more and more. At first they were a mystery to me. Then I started to learn about the public land survey system of meridians, township, ranges and sections. With that understanding I can find land by its legal description. The last tricky part is legally getting there. Does the land have legal access? That is where easements come in. Here are nine different kinds of easements that may help you understand the land you are researching.

  1. Easement by Implication or Prescription – I have been driving that road forever to get to my land. Now you want to block it off? The courts say otherwise and can grant me an easement by implication or prescription.
  2. Easement by Estoppel – I bought the land from the guy who lives between the land and the road. He told me its ok to drive back to my land but never got it recorded. Later my dog ate his chickens and now he won’t let me drive back to my land and there is no other access. Courts should give me an easement by Estoppel.
  3. Easement Appendant – I bought the back 40 acres and to get there I have to drive through everyone else’s ranch. On the deed there is a 20 page description of the intricate route to my 40 acres. That route describes my appendant easement. When I sell my land the whole route back there transfers with it. I’m considered the dominant tenement and all the ranches I cross are the servient tenement.  
  4. Easement by Necessity – I inherited some land that grandpa bought at a tax auction when he was my age. There is no access, but while researching it I noticed that the neighbor’s property on the road was the parent property that mine was split off of. Court should grant me access through their land to the road if the neighbor won’t give it to me first.
  5. Easement in Gross – I found oil and instead of trucking it to market there is so much of it I would rather pipe it to market. There are five different property owners between here and there. I don’t own the land I am getting the oil out of so I can’t link a traditional easement to my land. I can offer them money for an easement in gross for my pipeline to cross their property. This kind of easement is not tied to the land so I can’t transfer it on a traditional deed. I better buy the easement in my company’s name so when I sell the oil project the new owners of my company can use the pipeline easement.  
  6. Easement of Convenience – My uncle had a Christmas tree farm in Michigan. The deer loved to graze and bed down in between the trees. The neighbors grew corn and other typical crops the deer loved to graze on too.The best way for the neighbors to get the deer was to flush them out of my uncles Christmas trees. My uncle gave the neighbors permission to drive the deer out of the Christmas trees every November 15th, opening day of deer season. The neighbors had an easement of convenience.  
  7. Easement of Support – My parents house had a neighbor that built over the lot lines unbeknownst to my parents or the neighbor. In a survey many years later, when the heirs of the neighbor tried to sell out, they found out that the house was on my parent’s land. The heirs offered $5,000 to create an easement of support so their house could be sold with title insurance and financing. That was a lot cheaper than moving the house.  
  8. Affirmative Easement – While researching a recent vacant land deal it appeared there was a motocross track on the land that spread out to a couple of the neighbors’ properties too. When I asked the seller about it he said he got permission from the beekeeper next door to extend his track out over his land too. The motocross loving land seller created an Affirmative Easement on the beekeepers land.
  9. Access Easement – When splitting up land the bits and pieces sell a lot easier with access. I create my favorite easement by adding a simple line like this to the deed: “Grantor to retain the West 30 feet for public ingress and egress”. You can change the west to the east or north or south according to the property. They are very useful and add a lot of value when splitting land so future developers don’t have to worry about obtaining access from the neighbors and or the courts.    

While studying land to buy please check the legal description for easements. Maybe you will find and notice an easement like the ones above. Each state has its own rules and laws that may allow you to create some of these kinds of easements through the courts if the neighbors won’t comply. Ideally the easements are already there. Sometimes I can find them on the vesting deed. Sometimes I find them on older deeds or plat maps. A couple times I even found them in the title history of the neighbor’s property but not on mine.  Periodically they even show up on the deed going from the president of the United States to the first homesteaders of the land. Search the General Land Office records online to see those old deeds. Even if you can’t track down recorded easements some of the above 9 kinds of easements may come into play.