When you’re buying a property, you might come across an ‘easement’ over the land you intend to buy. It’s one of those legal words that isn’t frequently used in everyday language, and needs a bit of explanation. 

What is an easement? 

In legal terms, an easement is a right that is exercised over a piece of land or property for the benefit of another. In practical terms, that looks like: 

  • A right of way for a footpath 
  • A right for drainage pipes to pass over or under the land 
  • Rights of access for maintenance 
  • A right to light 

Imagine that the property you want to buy is in the middle of a field. You’re buying the house, but a local farmer owns the field. You would have an easement over the field so that you can access your home. 

Why does it matter? 

If there’s an easement on your property then a third party has the right to use that bit of land for a particular purpose.  

It could be that you give your neighbour the right to access the side-lane between your homes. You technically own the side lane, but your neighbour needs occasional access to this bit of land in order to carry out repairs to their property. 

Usually there are no negative effects to an easement. You might have to put up with a small inconvenience, like somebody walking through your field, but it’s not cumbersome.  

Sometimes, an easement can limit the development potential of your home. So if you’re buying a home that you have big development plans for, it’s worth double-checking with your solicitor if any easements will restrict your plans. 

How will I know if I have an easement? 

Easements will usually appear on your registered title at the Land Registry. For a small fee, you can get a copy of your title from their website. You’ll see any easements registered under ‘Section C Charges Register.’  

Normally, easements are granted by a deed, so your solicitor may also be able to obtain a copy of the original deed.   

But easements aren’t always documented. They can be simply acquired through long use, or implied by necessity. If that’s the case, then you’ll still find out about the easement before you buy the property. This information will come out as part of the searches and enquiries.  

 What can you do about an easement? 

Generally easements are permanent, so there isn’t much you can do about it if you’re unhappy with it. In some circumstances, it can be released by deed. But if the right of way, or public footpath has been in operation for a long time, it may be difficult to actually stop people using it. 

Are easements a good thing or a bad thing? 

As the name suggests, an easement tends to ‘ease’ the arrangement between property owners. They’re usually a congenial arrangement to make life a little more convenient for both parties.  

It’s nothing to panic about if you see an easement in your title deeds. Make sure you understand exactly what it is and how other people can use the land, just so you’re clear and your solicitor can help explain the details of the easement. 

If you’d like any help with understanding an easement on your land, or any other conveyancing support, please get in touch.