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Does a change in ownership change land use?

One of the most difficult concepts to grasp in real estate law is how encumbrances work — especially when there’s an easement involved.

Imagine this: You see a wonderful piece of property, but there’s an easement that allows a neighbor lady to cut right through the back end of the land on her way to town. You think it might be time for her to build her own access road instead of relying on the one that is attached to the property you want Can you force the issue just by buying the property? Probably not.

There are essentially two types of easements that you can encounter in real estate: appurtenant easements and easements in gross. Appurtenant easements are said to “run with the land,” meaning that they continue even when the property is sold or otherwise transferred between owners. If the easement attached to your dream property is appurtenant, it could allow anybody living in that neighboring residence to continue to use your access road forever. (This kind of issue is frequently seen with shared driveways.)

If the easement is an easement in gross, then it is specifically attached to one person — in this case, the neighbor. For whatever reason she was granted the special privilege she now enjoys, she’s entitled to use it during her lifetime. It will, however, end when she passes away.

Deed restrictions, encroachments and easements can damage the resale value of a piece of property and threaten your ability to enjoy your land as you see fit. Find out more about your legal options before you make a serious mistake.

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