An easement is a legal tool that gives someone else the right to use part of your land. Generally speaking, an easement does not give a party full ownership of that part of the property and instead, will include restrictions on how the party can use the land. Additionally, the property owner retains the right to use their land as they choose, as long as the use does not interfere with the easement holder’s rights.
One type of easement does restrict the property owner’s right to use the land – sometimes, they cannot use that part of their property at all once an easement is in place. These are called exclusive easements and, while they are rare, it is important to understand all implications of this type of easement before you ever grant one.
How an Exclusive Easement is Acquired
First, a property owner can expressly grant an easement to a party in a deed, often in exchange for compensation. For an easement to be exclusive, the language must either clearly convey the exclusive use of the property or the language must be written in a way that it can be interpreted to convey exclusive use. For instance, if an owner grants an easement for a reservoir to be partially built on their property, it can be interpreted that the property owner can no longer use that part of the land, as it would contaminate the water. If the language cannot be interpreted to convey exclusive use, the courts will likely find that the easement was non-exclusive and the easement holder must share the property with the owner.
Easements do not always have to be expressly granted by an owner, however. Instead, an easement may be implied due to a party’s conduct on that area of the property. If a party exclusively uses part of a property for a period of time without the owner objecting, the party can argue they have the right to continue to exclusively use that property. This is similar to adverse possession, however, an easement does not convey ownership rights to the property like adverse possession does.
Easements may also be granted out of necessity – such as traveling across another’s property to gain access to a property that is landlocked. However, it is important to remember that exclusive easements only apply to the current grantee. If the easement holder sells their own property, the new owner does not have the automatic right to the exclusive easement.
If two parties agree to an exclusive easement, it is critical that the language of the easement properly reflects the agreement and represents the rights of each party with respect to the real estate. You should always have a knowledgeable lawyer draft or review an easement. If a dispute arises regarding an existing easement, you need to consult with a skilled real estate attorney who fully understands California real estate laws.
Discuss Your Concerns with an Experienced San Jose Real Estate Attorney Today
If you have any questions or concerns regarding easements or any real estate matter in California, please do not hesitate to call Structure Law Group for assistance. Call 408-441-7500 or contact us online for more information.