Understanding rights of way and easements

You are considering a home purchase, but you notice there is an easement in the title deed. Additionally, you have heard about rights of way and easement issues while looking for your dream home. Can an easement change the way you feel about your home purchase? How might a right of way or easement affect Californians when they are living on properties that have them?

First, it may help to understand the different types of easements and rights of way that you might encounter in an average title. In legal terms, these give others the right to enter or use your property, usually for the purpose of accessing another property near yours. The following points explain further:

  • A right of way is an easement that allows someone the right to pass through your land, such as sharing your driveway to access a park beyond your property or taking a public path that cuts through your property at some point.
  • An easement might allow utility workers access to a portion of your land where equipment is located, such as a telephone pole or power box.
  • A negative easement is a clause that prohibits you from making changes that affect others. For example, you might not be able to add another story to your home if it would obstruct a scenic or historic view from nearby properties.

It might seem inconvenient or irritating that others have legal access to portions of your property, but it may help to know that easements are common additions to many titles, and usually they do not provide any inconvenience to property owners. However, there are some situations where you might feel an easement is unreasonable or outdated. For example, an older easement allowing use of your driveway to the home behind you might not be necessary if a new road to your neighbor has recently been constructed. If this is the case, you may be able to dispute an easement’s existence by consulting with an experienced real estate attorney.