Back to Basics: What is an Easement?

In this blog series, we aim to get back to basics – that is, to explain some foundational concepts about the kind of law we practice here at Hansen, Howell & Wilkie, PLLC. Today’s key term: easement.

In basic terms, an easement is an interest in real property that is less than fee simple ownership.  If you grant someone an easement, you give them the right to use your real property in some way.

There are many different types of easements, including (but not limited to) access, utility, drainage, construction, sewer, sidewalk, slope, or encroachment.  Easements can be permanent or temporary.  They can be defined narrowly (e.g., an aerial utility easement for a single power line no higher than 30 feet), or broadly (e.g., an easement for any public utility, either underground or above-ground).

There are several ways to obtain an easement in North Carolina: by grant,  estoppel, way of necessity, implication, dedication, prescription, reservation, and condemnation.

You should carefully consider what legal rights you are giving up before you grant anyone – including the NCDOT, a municipality, or a utility company – an easement to your property.  You need to fully understand how much those rights are worth, and if the easement itself can cause damage to the rest of your property. Once you have given your rights away, you may not be able to get them back.  The best course of action would be to consult with an attorney before granting any kind of easement.

The attorneys at Hansen, Howell & Wilkie offer free, no-obligation consultations on eminent domain cases across North Carolina.  If someone wants an easement from you, contact us today to schedule a time to talk.

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