Many of us, especially first time buyers, may not know what an easement is. Even defining the meaning of the word ‘easement’ is not easy as it can cover a multitude of descriptions. Easements can be divided into several subheadings- public easements/ private easements/ floating easements/ dominant easements/restrictive easements- these cover the main ones.
An easement is attached to the property involved, and not the owner of the property. It gives a ‘right of use’ to the holder of the easement. If you are considering the purchase of a home with an easement, you will need to fully investigate the facts of the easement in question.
As you are making a large investment – possibly the largest in your life – you will need to protect this investment. In order to protect your investment, any easement on a property must be fully scrutinized, both physically (i.e. site visits) and legally (speak to a lawyer about it and get the interpretation in writing).
Having written these dire warnings, perhaps it should be stated that an easement is a normal solution to common problems and a prospective buyer should not abandon a possible sale just because of an easement.
The reason for this is that an easement can be very simple, for instance: the corner tip of your neighbor’s roof encroaches 2 inches over your property line. This will require a variance on the usual bylaw and an easement for their use of your two inches (even though it only encroaches in your air-space up at roof top level).
Some of your questions with an easement will be: Will it give someone or something more access to my property than I want? Will it affect my life? Will it affect future resale of the property?
Obviously with the example above, the location of the roof-tip easement will be paramount in this case. If the tip is located bang in the middle of one of your windows, you may reject the property. On the other hand, if it is adjacent to an empty wall you will probably never be aware of it, once you are moved in.
However, beware the innocuous looking easement, for instance: the house behind you uses your driveway. That’s okay, you think, our living room is on the other side of the house, no problem. But, he drives his truck and trailer past your bedroom windows every morning at 4.a.m. AND he warms it up for 15 minutes first!
Perhaps this will not bother you, as you are a heavy sleeper, but will it hinder the future re-sale? Therefore you must ensure that you think the easement will not jeopardize any future re-sale of this property. If it is acceptable to you, does this mean that it will be acceptable to another buyer?
Easements can affect plans you may have for your property, for instance you may not be able to add fences, garages or sheds just where you want. Another type of easement can be placed by a Land Trust. This can happen if you have a creek on your property that is a known salmon run. Often a large swathe of land either side of the creek will be protected to avoid contamination.
There are also water easements. Even if you are lucky enough to be able to afford your own private lake – it may have an easement for another property owner to reach his remote home on the other side of your lake!
Like many anomalies in life, once investigated and considered, an easement can present no threat. It can even be a selling point! For instance, if you allow your land to be used for equestrian, hiking, biking and other recreational purposes the government in some areas will give you a tax break!