Easements are a property interests in which a person who does not own the property has a limited use of that property.  Common examples that illustrate this legal principle are driveway easements and utility easements.

With a driveway easement, one person owns the property on which the driveway is located, but another person (usually a neighbor) has, because of a written agreement or longstanding practice, the right to use that driveway.  A utility easement involves a landowner granting to a utility company the right to come onto the landowner’s property to install, repair, maintain, or remove utility equipment.  These are just two examples.  Easements may arise in a variety of situations.

Most often, easements are put down in writing, signed by the parties to the easement, and recorded at the local County Recorder’s office.  However, easements that are not written may arise because of longstanding use of the property (there are several other requirements to establish this type of easement, only one of which is longstanding use).  An example of a longstanding use is a farmer using a neighbor’s lane to get to his farm field; no written agreement was ever drafted but it has been the practice over many years, even with prior owners of the land.

The best scenario is when parties realize that they need an easement and consult with an attorney who helps them define the limited use of the property and who will have certain rights and responsibilities.  For example, if neighbors realize that their shared driveway is on one of the neighbor’s property but there is no written easement, it is in their best interests to consult an attorney who will draft the easement and help them consider and decide  such issues as who will maintain the driveway, who is allowed to use the driveway, etc.

A written easement will go a long way in helping the parties avoid disagreements over the use of one person's property, and will be very helpful to future owners of the property.

However, disputes do arise.  When they do, an attorney should be consulted promptly so that the attorney can help the parties define and narrow the issue with the hope of reaching an agreement and avoiding a lawsuit.
Our firm has successfully advised both landowners and persons who want or need to use the land of another person in carefully drafting easements to spell out the parties’ rights and responsibilities.  We have also represented parties to legal disputes over use of land.  In either scenario, prompt legal advice can often help the parties come to an amicable and useful agreement before a dispute arises.

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Dell Burtis Law is located in Tiffin, Ohio and assists clients throughout Seneca, Sandusky, Huron, Crawford, Wyandot, Hancock and Wood County, Ohio, with legal matters relating to Estate Planning (wills, trusts, powers of attorney), Elder Law (medicaid and nursing home planning), Business Law (formation, succession and purchases/sales) and Real Estate (titles, closings, agreements and easements).