Easements

An easement is the right to use someone else’s land in a particular way or for a particular purpose. Easements are extremely common. If you are a home owner, the chances are that your property will have the benefit of one or more easements over a neighbour’s property and that it will also be subject to rights in favour of your neighbour’s land.

In a report, the Law Commission has recently stated, based on Land Registry figures, that at least 65% of freehold titles in this country are subject to one or more easements*.

There are numerous types of rights that are capable of being easements, for example:

  • The right to use a shared driveway
  • The right to park on a neighbour’s land
  • The right to run pipes or cables under a neighbours property
  • A right of way across someone’s land
  • A right of support

Examples of less common rights that have been upheld as easements are;

  • The right of a factory owner to use a neighbouring airfield for flights
  • The right of owners of houses situated around a private square to use a private garden in the middle of the square

And, slightly more bizarrely;

  • The right to use a neighbour’s kitchen for washing
  • The right of the occupants of one flat to use the toilet in a neighbouring flat

Easements are often an essential way of ensuring that people are able to properly use and enjoy their homes. They can also have a financial impact – it has been estimated for example that a parking space can add 6.5% to the value of a property.

All easements, to be legally recognised as such must have a number of things in common. These are that:

  • The right must relate to land, rather than being simply a personal right for an individual or group of people. There must therefore be “dominant’ land, which benefits from the right and “servient” land that is subject to it;
  • The right must be connected with the enjoyment of the dominant land and for its benefit;
  • The dominant and servient owners must be different people (you cannot have an easement over your own land)
  • The right must be something that is capable of being recognised in law as an easement (for example, not excessive in nature or not requiring positive action by the owner of the servient land)

Easements can be created in a number of different ways. An easement can be created by deed, for example where the land is sold.

An “implied” easement can come about where someone sells part of plot of land but retains another part.

An easement can also come about by “prescription’. This is where a use has been enjoyed for a long period of time by a land owner. The claimant must be able to show that the use was without permission and not obtained by “force or stealth” and that it continued for a period of at least 20 years.

It has been said that as a landowner who wishes to stop others acquiring easements in this way “must not acquiesce and suffer in silence.” Sometimes urgent legal steps are required to protect the “servient” landowner’s rights in this type of situation.

Most of the time easements are a convenient and helpful way of easing relations between neighbours and both parties are happy with the way they operate.

However disputes do sometimes arise. Neighbours can disagree over parking rights; there may be a dispute as to a right of way over someone’s land; someone may have what they believed to be their right to light blocked by a neighbour’s extension.

The law relating to easements can be complex and technical. If you need advice on easements, contact us. You can speak to one of our experienced solicitors at a fixed cost initial interview, where we can provide preliminary view on your problem and discuss with you what steps are required, together with any funding options that might be available to you.

Please contact us on 01227 813400 or use our web enquiry form.

*The full report can be found here.

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