Easements

A neglected, worn gas pipeline sign warns of hidden danger lying below a farmer's cornfieldLegal Representation for Boston Real Estate and Easements

As a buyer of a home in Boston, you will need to find out whether the property is burdened by an easement or other restriction. An easement is the right of another person to use your property according to specifications in the instrument that grants the easement. Some easements can have a significant impact on your right to use portions of the property or your efforts to alter or expand the property. Other easements are standard. If you are buying a property that has the benefit of an easement on another property, this is called the dominant estate, and the other property is the servient estate. Easements can arise by express agreement and may be recorded in the registry of deeds, or they can be acquired in other ways. At Pulgini & Norton, our real estate attorneys can help buyers in Boston make sure that they are aware of easements, and understand any limitations when purchasing a home.

Types of Easements

Some standard easements in Brookline and surrounding areas in Massachusetts include: utility easements, driveway or access easements, drainage easements, prescriptive easements and easements by implication. Utility easements permit utility companies to use parts of your property to provide services. Access easements exist on properties with shared driveways or may exist in connection with a bike path, and they often provide for common maintenance and upkeep. Drainage easements allow one lot to drain storm water or other water onto another lot or into a detention pond on someone else's property.

Prescriptive easements are acquired through adverse possession. Adverse possession is the hostile adverse use of another person's property (as if an easement existed) for 20 or more continuous years. There is no instrument recorded with the registry of deeds in connection with these. For example, if your neighbor has walked through your property to get to a public park for 20 or more years, she probably has a prescriptive easement. Sometimes adverse possession is obtained through multiple landowners during a 20-year period by "tacking." Surveys may play a role in prescriptive easements.

Another type of easement is an easement by implication, where circumstances demonstrate that an easement was intended even though there is no recorded instrument. For example, if a property is landlocked behind another property with no recorded easement providing access to the street, an easement is created by necessity to access the street. Usually an easement by necessity is covered by the owner's title insurance policy.

All of the easements described above run with the land. This means that if you buy a property burdened by an easement, you must honor the easement and if you don't, you may be brought to court so that the easement can be enforced. In some cases, the property being purchased has the benefit of an easement, and in that case, you will be able to enforce that easement in court.

For Easement Concerns, Retain a Boston Real Estate Attorney

A title search goes back at least 50 years and should reveal most easements that run with your land. A prescriptive easement acquired through adverse possession may not show up on such a search if it has not yet been subject to judicial action. At Pulgini & Norton, our property lawyers can help you determine whether the Boston home you're interested in buying is burdened or benefited by an easement. We represent clients in Quincy, Newton, and Waltham. Call us at 781-843-2200 or contact us via our online form for a consultation.