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Easement Rights in California

doc that reads easement

Imagine that you’ve recently bought a piece of real estate in San Diego. While visiting the property after a purchase, you’re startled to notice that a stranger is walking through your property. Upon further investigation, you learn that your neighbor has a legal right to cross through your property to access their own, using what’s known as an easement. Learn more about easements and how they can affect your property rights below, and contact a seasoned California real estate attorney with any additional questions.

What is an easement?

An easement is the right to make use of a portion of someone else’s land for a specific, limited purpose. Someone with an easement on a piece of land doesn’t own that land and can’t use it or occupy it like an owner would, but they do have rights which affect your property ownership. Just about every property has at least one easement, but some have multiple easements.

The most common types of easements are:

  • Easements in gross: These types of easements are owned by a particular person or entity. Utility companies typically have easements in gross to access property, or to run sewer lines to and across the property. These types of easements are typically recorded on the title to the land.
  • Easements appurtenant: These types of easements are said to run with the land, rather than a particular person. An example would be a path or driveway that runs across one owner’s property to give the easement beneficiary access to a public road. If the beneficiary of the easement sells their property, the new owner will be allowed to use the easement, but the previous owner will not.
  • Prescriptive easements: These easements are, by definition, hostile to the owner’s use of their property. An example of a prescriptive easement would be a neighbor’s fence being built five feet over their own property line, into their neighbor’s property. In California, if a prescriptive easement has been continuously used by the encroaching party for five or more years, then a court might find that they should be considered the legal owner of that property.

Discovering an easement after a sale

Easements should be recorded and discoverable through a title search prior to the purchase of a property. In some cases, property owners don’t discover easements until they attempt to make use of their property but discover that an easement prevents their intended use. For example, an owner may intend to dig a swimming pool but discover that unrecorded sewer lines prevent them from digging. In cases where an easement is not disclosed and diminishes the value of the property, the owner may have grounds for compensation from their title insurance policy or the seller. An experienced real estate attorney can help you determine your options after discovery of an unrecorded easement.

For assistance in determining your options when a legal issue arises in a California real estate transaction, contact the dedicated and seasoned San Diego real estate lawyer Jon Alan Enochs for a consultation at 619-421-3956.

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