What is an easement on a property and how does it affect me?

An easement is a property interest that allows the easement holder to use property that he or she does not own or possess.  It does not allow the easement holder to occupy the land, or to exclude others from the land unless they interfere with the easement holder’s use. Before entering into a contract, ask your solicitor to investigate the effect of easements on your property. 

Before entering into a contract, ask your solicitor to investigate the effect of easements on your property. 

An easement is a property interest that allows the easement holder to use property that he or she does not own or possess.  It does not allow the easement holder to occupy the land, or to exclude others from the land unless they interfere with the easement holder’s use.  Easements are common and many properties have them.

The person who owns the land is allowed to use the easement and they can also prohibit everyone else from using it except for the holder of the easement. A common example of this that I see when appraising homes is a driveway that goes across one person’s property to get to another one.

Another type of easement can involve public utilities such as for power lines or sewer drains. In these instances, the owner has full use of the easement but they have to allow access to city employees or workers who may need to do repair work.

Generally, easements do not create a negative effect on your property value unless it severely restricts the use of the property. Most property owners still have full use of the property and do not experience any negative consequences.

When attempting to find out exactly how the value of your property may be affected by an easement consider the following four points:

How common are easements in your area? If every property in the neighbourhood has an easement they may be so common that no one cares about it and it has no impact because it’s known and expected.

How big is the easement? A large easement on a small parcel may be more negative than a small easement on a larger parcel. This may also affect the utility of the lot, meaning that you may not be able to get maximum use of the lot because the easement takes away from the useable area.

What impact does the easement have on the use of the property? Does the easement take away from the usability of the lot by being larger than typical?

What are the terms of the easement? If a council has an easement over your property it would be good to know exactly how much access they have. Having limited access is be better than free reign over the property. You would also want to know if you can build on the easement or if there are any other restrictions.