Easements and Rights of Way

Do you need help negotiating or drafting an Easement or a Right of Way? You have come to the right place. We have worked on hundreds of easements. Call us today for a consultation to discuss your matter. The Law of Easements is complex and includes many specialized terms. Below is a brief outline of the major areas that we frequently encounter when assisting clients with easements.

Definition

An easement is a right, privilege, or liberty held on land owned by another. It is a limited right of use for an express purpose. An easement does not grant a right of possession, as would a deed, but rather, a right to use. In Maine, you will often encounter easements granting travel rights over the land of another, or an easement so that power lines or plumbing can connect to one person’s property through another’s.

Nature of Easements

EasementsAn easement can either be affirmative or negative; in other words, it can allow a person to do certain acts on the land, or it may prevent the owner from doing certain acts on the land.

Similarly, an easement is either appurtenant or in gross. Easements created to benefit other land that is owned by the easement holder is referred to as being appurtenant to the easement holder’s land, while an easement in gross does not benefit any other land and is merely personal in use. Appurtenant easements are said to “run with the land,” meaning that they are transferred any time the dominant estate (easement holder’s land) is transferred, and they pass from owner to owner through time. This is true even if the deed conveying the easement holder’s land does not mention the easement. This is important because, in many cases, one party may not realize that an easement exists under the belief that it must be mentioned in each deed.

Creation of Easements

The Attorneys at Griffin & Jordan are experts in analyzing property disputes to determine whether a Maine easement has been created. There are six principle ways in which an easement may be created and we will carefully evaluate your case to determine whether an easement has been created by any of these legal theories.

Easements may be created by express grant, by reservation or exception, by implication, by estoppel, by necessity, or by prescription. Each of these methods carries with it certain legal requirements to prove the easement and we will discuss these with you in the particular context of your case in the event that one of these appears to be possible.

Scope of Easements

The extent of an easement is often the subject of litigation and disputes between neighbors. Just what was intended by the original creators of the easement can be difficult to tell. This is particularly true because the majority of easements were created in the 1800s or 1900s and at times people were not clear in their intent. When all of the original parties to the creation of the easement are deceased, attorneys are often left with simply the words that were used at creation.

In Maine, the courts have had to deal with such issues as whether a standard easement permits logging activities on the roadways of the easement, or whether an easement may be used by people visiting the easement holder, or whether the easement holder can build a residence on land that was historically used only for logging. Each case is very different and we would be happy to discuss the particulars of your situation with you.

Termination of Easements

Easements may be terminated by expiration (meaning that they have a stated time limit) or by release or merger (i.e., it is released by the owner, or is merged when the owner comes to purchase the land that the easement encumbered). Easements may also be abandoned (indicating a clear intent to never use it again), or may cease by estoppel (something said or done by the easement holder causing justifiable reliance in the other land owner). Similarly, an easement may cease by prescription when there is a continuous and uninterrupted interference with the easement for a period of 20 years, or by the destruction of the servient estate.

Whatever your situation, we are ready to help you resolve your issue. Call us today for a consultation with one of our real estate attorneys. 207-866-5500.