Jul 2023

Most Common Title Defects: Unknown Easements

By Marc Shaw

When you’re buying real estate, it’s important to learn as much as you can about a property before buying it. Certain encumbrances on a title can create problems for you and may even cost you money to resolve. One type of encumbrance is called an easement, and it may not make life easy for you. Here’s more about easements, how they can affect you, and how to protect yourself from them.

What is an Easement in Real Estate?

An easement is a type of property right held by a non-owner that permits them to use someone else’s land for a specific purpose. For example, many properties grant a utility easement to utility companies, allowing them to access the land to maintain power lines, sewer lines, and more. In rural areas, a landlocked neighbor may be granted an easement so that they can access a road that is inaccessible from their property. A property owner may even grant a private easement to another party for a range of purposes. Imagine a homeowner who has a gorgeous lakefront view that overlooks part of a neighboring property. They may ask their neighbor for an easement that will prevent them from building anything that would obstruct that view.

In most cases, easements won’t cause a problem for current or future homeowners, but in others, they can lead to disagreements and protracted, costly legal battles. Take the example above; if the property was sold and the new owners wanted to build a guest house that would obstruct that lakefront view, they would not be able to do so. Because that easement was created by a private agreement with the previous property owner, it may not even be listed on the title or come up during a title search. In that case, it would be an unknown easement that would prevent the new owners from using the property the way they want to.

Protecting Yourself from Unknown Easements

An unknown easement could exist that grants a neighbor the right to walk through your property, run sewer lines underneath your land, or even park in your driveway. Any of these scenarios could be inconvenient and costly for you, so a thorough title search and getting the proper title insurance coverage before buying any real estate is an absolute necessity. The first step to obtaining the correct coverage is having a thorough survey conducted to compare the actual property lines with the ones recorded previously. Once the survey is completed, it can be determined whether any existing easements will conflict with the property lines, or if any new easements will be needed to allow adjacent property owners to continue using their properties the way they choose.

For any easements that don’t show up during a title search, owner’s title insurance can protect you from incurring any legal fees related to removing or resolving them, but only if the proper endorsements are added to the policy. For example, a survey endorsement can provide coverage for certain issues like encroachments, boundary disputes, or any other discrepancies related to property boundaries that were not revealed in the initial survey. An access endorsement can ensure that the property has legal access to public roads and utilities, which in some cases can be obstructed by structures on another person’s property. The one-time premium you pay for your policy will certainly be worth it if you run into an unknown easement or any other type of covered title defect.

Title Insurance Companies in Pennsylvania

World Wide Land Transfer has been providing high-quality title insurance to homeowners, sellers, and lenders all across the nation since 2004. If you are buying a property and are interested in an owner’s title insurance policy, our knowledgeable team will be happy to assist you. Get in touch with us today if you need a reliable title insurance company in Philadelphia, PA, or anywhere else in the country.

World Wide Land Transfer is a service-oriented PA title company with offices in Philadelphia, New York, and Washington, D.C. With a record of going above and beyond, we are trusted to close everything from complex commercial transactions to residential refinance and purchase transactions.

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