What is an Easement?
An easement1 is the legal right for a non-owner to use or cross over another person’s land. The following are brief descriptions of the four main types of easements in Washington.
Utility easements – This is the most common type of easement and is one that is given to a city or utility company. Such easements are usually granted for sewers, storm drains, fuel pipes, underground electrical lines, telephone lines, and other necessities to provide utilities to the area. Generally, such easements have little impact on the landowner unless repairs or other maintenance work is needed.
Easements by necessity – This type of easement does not have to be expressly granted in writing, but instead exists if it is absolutely necessary for one landowner to cross over another landowner’s property for a legitimate reason. For example, if the only access from a main road to your home is through another person’s property, you have the right to cross that property to get to your home. The other property owner may not keep you from doing so.
Private easement – A property owner may sell or grant an easement to another property owner. A common example of this is one shared driveway between two homes and both homeowners wish to park behind their homes. In such situations, one property owner generally owns the entire driveway and has granted an easement to the other to give them the legal right to use that driveway.
Prescriptive easement – A prescriptive easement2 is never granted by one property owner to another. Instead, the other property owner simply uses the land openly and continuously for a period of time and therefore acquire the easement. This may occur, for instance, if one home owner starts sharing a driveway without ever receiving the express right to do so and the owner of the driveway does not protest. After a certain length of time, they will earn the right to continue using the driveway.
Many legal disputes may arise regarding easements, especially between neighbors. If you have any questions regarding any type of easement, call the experienced Seattle & Tacoma real estate attorneys at the Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess in Seattle or Tacoma at (206) 621-1110 or (253) 572-1000 for help today.