Access Easements

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If you are thinking of buying a home, one issue that may come up is the presence of an easement. An easement gives someone else the legal right to use your property, usually as specified in a written document and recorded in the registry of deeds. Some easements may have a huge impact on how you use and enjoy your property, while others are minor. If a property has the use of an easement over another property, the one that uses the property is the dominant estate, and the property through which the easement runs is the servient estate. One type of easement in a residential property is an access easement. The real estate attorneys at Pulgini & Norton can help Boston residents understand their rights and obligations with regard to these easements and others.

Access Easements

Easements are not ownership rights but simply a limited use of the property. Access easements provide for shared driveways, common upkeep or maintenance, and sometimes walking or bike paths. They can also provide beach access or allow an adjacent property owner to walk across the land because there is no other reasonable means of access.

Access easements typically run with the land, which means they remain on a deed when a property is bought and sold. If the easement is of record, it can be easily identified and discovered when a buyer or an attorney conducts a title examination at the registry of deeds.

In some cases, a neighbor will claim an access easement when there is nothing on record at the registry of deeds. Sometimes the neighbor has developed rights based on years of use, through a doctrine known as adverse possession or an easement by prescription. This is a common law concept in which homeowners can lose certain property rights if a neighbor takes an action contrary to the owner's interest, and the owner does not object.

Easements by prescription can be acquired by showing the continued uninterrupted use of land over which an easement is claimed for 20 years. For example, if your neighbor has regularly walked through your property on a path without your objection to get to the beach, you might be stopped from claiming 20 years later that the neighbor is trespassing when he or she walks on that path to get to the beach. To stop an easement from being created, you need to do or say something to stop the disputed use. If an easement by prescription is disputed, the matter may be litigated by either the neighbor or landowner.

In some cases, an access easement may be established by necessity. The person claiming an easement by necessity will need to show that there was at some point unity of title between the dominant and servient estates, the unity of title was severed because one parcel was conveyed, and the necessity arose because of the conveyance.

Consult a Boston Attorney for Advice on Your Rights as a Property Owner

The experienced Boston lawyers at Pulgini & Norton can counsel home buyers about any possible limitations on their property use. We can assist with conducting title examinations and making relevant inquiries as to access easements and other restrictions on use. We also represent clients in Lowell, Malden, Brookline, and other cities in Massachusetts. Call us at 781-843-2200 or contact us via our online form for a consultation.