What is an Easement?
UPDATED: September 18, 2013
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An easement is a legal right to use another's land for a specific limited purpose. In other words, when someone is granted an easement, he is granted the legal right to use the property, but the legal title to the land itself remains with the owner of the land. Most commonly, easements are granted to utility companies to run power lines and cable lines. However, you may also grant an easement to your neighbor if your property is in the way of his access to a road, or to anyone else who needs to have a legal right to access your land.
Easements are classified as "appurtenant" or "in gross." Easements classified as "appurtenant" are said to "run with the land," which means they are part of the formal ownership of the land. For instance, if a neighbor, Sam is granted an easement known as an easement appurtenant to move his car in and out of the neighbor's driveway, when Sam sells his property, the new owner also has the limited right to continue to have access to a neighbor's driveway. In addition, both Sam and future property owners can use the neighbor's driveway in only the limited manner arranged between the underlying land owner and original grantee of the easement. In this example, the neighbor, known as Joe, granted neighbor Sam an express (formally spelled out) easement which provided Sam with the limited right to use the driveway to move his car. Neither Sam nor future owners can use the driveway for other purposes such as playing basketball with his kids. A title search by a prospective owner of the underlying property would reveal an easement appurtenant.
Easement In Gross
An easement in gross is a personal easement that does not transfer with the property. For instance, if neighbor John grants Tom access to the beach by crossing over John's property, when Tom sells his land, the new owner is not legally entitled to cross John's property. The new owner does not have an easement to get to the beach through John's land. A title search would not show an easement in gross.
If you are considering a real estate transaction that includes an easement or are considering creating an easement, it is best to get advice from a real estate attorney.