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How much do you know about easements? – III

Our blog has spent some time discussing a very common component of residential real estate transactions over the last two months that many people are familiar with, but might nevertheless find somewhat baffling: easements.

In today’s post, we’ll continue this discussion by examining some of the rights and remedies available to both the dominant estate — the person/land helped by the easement — and the servient estate — the person/land burdened by the easement.

What rights are available to the dominant estate?

The owner of the dominant estate essentially has the right to undertake any activity that is reasonably convenient or necessary in order to enjoy the benefits/purposes for which the easement is granted. The only thing they are prohibited from doing is placing an unreasonable burden on the servient estate.

What rights are available to the servient estate?

The owner of the servient estate also has the right to undertake any activity that is reasonably convenient or necessary in order to enjoy the benefits/purposes of their land. However, they are prohibited from unduly interfering with the dominant estate’s use of the easement.

How is it determined whether an activity by the dominant estate could be placing an unreasonable burden on the servient estate?

As with many legal issues, the answer to this question depends entirely upon the facts of the individual case. However, experts indicate that the reasonableness inquiry is not set to a specific period, meaning it can account for things like technological developments and changes to the surrounding areas.

Indeed, courts have found that scenarios like the replacement of outdated gas pipelines with new equipment, or the cutting of trees by an easement holder do not constitute an undue burden on the servient estate.

What remedies are available to the dominant estate and the servient estate?    

If the servient estate is found to be unduly interfering with the dominant estate’s use of the easement, some of the available remedies include damages if the interference affected the value of the dominant estate or a court order calling for the removal of any obstructions.

Conversely, if the servient estate is found to be unduly burdened by the dominant estate’s use of the easement, some of the available remedies include damages, a court order restricting the dominant estate’s enjoyment of the easement or termination of the easement.

If you have question or concerns relating to easements, or other land use or zoning issues, please consider speaking with a skilled legal professional.

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