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Easement Appurtenant: Definition, Features & Examples

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Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

An easement is the specification of land uses regardless of ownership and easement appurtenant is where these uses are specifically attached to the land. Explore the features of this concept describing land usage and see how it occurs through transfers of ownership. Updated: 12/01/2021

Easement: Definition

Let's say you just bought a new home on a nice piece of lakeshore property. Unfortunately, you really didn't pay too much attention to the title report presented to you prior to sale and had some surprises waiting for you as you settled into your new home.

You find out that part of your neighbor's garage is sitting on your property. You note that a trail on your property is used by another neighbor from across the street as a shortcut to a public beach. This pesky neighbor also interrupts you as you are building a fence claiming that you can't do it because it will obstruct his view of the lake.

You get fed up and call an attorney. After some research, he informs you that the trail, the garage and even the building restrictions claimed by your neighbor are legally valid and enforceable pursuant to easements burdening your property. If you read the title report (i.e., a report on the title to the property), you'd have known about the easements.

An easement is a nonpossessory interest permitting someone else to make a specific use of your land or preventing you from making a specific use of it. If the easement lets another enter your land to make a specific use of the land, it can be classified as an affirmative easement, while a negative easement is an easement that actually allows another person to restrict the manner in which the owner can use her own land, such as prohibiting the use of a residential lot for a business activity. The examples we just moved a moment ago are a specific type of easement called an easements appurtenant.

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Easement Appurtenant: Definition

An easement appurtenant is an easement where the right of use is attached to the land itself. The property that benefits from the easement is known as the dominant estate (or dominant tenement), while the property that is burdened by the easement is known as the servient estate (or servient tenement) because it serves the dominant estate.

Let's go back to our examples from a moment ago. In each of our examples, you own the servient estate while your neighbors hold the dominant estate because the easement burdens your land and benefits theirs.

The easement permitting a portion of your neighbor's garage on your property is an easement appurtenant that happens to be an affirmative easement. Your neighbor's right to use the trail along your property as a shortcut to the beach is also an easement appurtenant that is an affirmative easement. This type of easement is known as a right-of-way.

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