As mentioned, easements are generally created through agreement. That is, two parties record an Easement Agreement that clearly identifies the subject property and the terms by which all parties can use said property. Usually, these agreements are accompanied by agreements to share the cost of maintenance of the property (for a shared driveway, for instance). Always, they should be recorded with your County’s Recorder of Deeds. But there are other means for creating an easement in Pennsylvania. Two of the most common are easements by prescription and easements by necessity.
In my most recent article – where I spoke about adverse possession – I outlined the peculiar circumstance from which one can obtain title to a piece of real estate from a neighboring property. This article is a natural accompaniment to that article. In fact, much of what I write is going to be identical. Because – save for one significant difference – one can obtain an interest in another’s land through a prescriptive easement the same way they can obtain an interest in another’s land through adverse possession. That is, through use that is open, notorious, uninterrupted, hostile, and continuous for a period of 21 years.
The difference between the two is that a prescriptive easement gives you nothing more than an incorporeal hereditament, while one gains title to property through adverse possession. In human-speak, that means that – if you are successful in establishing that a prescriptive easement exists – you now have a valid non-possessory right to the use and enjoyment of a neighbor’s land. An example of this is seen in situation wherein a neighbor is using a certain tract of land as a driveway for a period of 21 years and meets the criteria I’ve outlined above.
The other means by which an easement can be created in Pennsylvania is more intuitive. If a land-locked parcel of land cannot be accessed from the road, the land owner is granted can be granted an easement by necessity. For instance, consider a large plot of farm land that is sub-divided into two lots. Lot 1 abuts the road. Lot 2 is behind Lot 1 and has no access to the road. Pennsylvania will grant an easement to the owner of Lot 2 across Lot 1 for the purpose of accessing the road. Of course, the matter could have been avoided by a proper sub-division, but that’s a different article.
As always, I’m speaking generally about complicated legal matters. If you think you need help with an easement or any other real estate problem, please don’t hesitate to call us today for a free consultation.