Often, when you purchase a piece of Real Estate, the property contains an Easement or two. The question is what exactly is an Easement? Classically, an Easement was defined as some interest in land that is owned by some other individual. In most cases, that interest consisted of some right to control or use the land that made up the property. However, the interest could give rights in some area above or below the land itself. Easement rights are often specific and limited to a certain purpose, such as to build a driveway on someone else’s property to access your property, or to have a walkway and dock on another’s yard and beach so that your property may also have access to the lake. It is important to note that Easements can last for any specified amount of time, or even forever, but in most if not all cases, an Easement does not give the Easement holder the right to possess, take from, improve, or sell the land of another.
The average Easement concerns two pieces of land, the land that is burdened by the Easement and the land that Benefits from the Easement. Land that is burdened by an Easement is often called in the legal world the Servient Estate. Land that benefits from an easement is often called in the legal world the Dominant Estate. An easy way to think about it is like a master-servant relationship. The dominant master gets to benefit from land of the servant, or Servient Estate, but this does not mean that the Servient Estate must bend to the will of the Dominant Estate. The holder of an Easement, the Dominant Estate, does not have any right to possess or own a piece of land burdened by an Easement, only the right to use the land in some certain way. Thus, the owner of the Servient Estate, the land subject to the Easement, is entitled to the full right of ownership and possession of the land, they just cannot do anything to interfere with the Easement rights that were given to the Dominant Estate.
Easements are created for any number of reasons. Some common examples of Easements include: a Right to Access Water Easement, like rights to lake or river access; a Right of Way Easement, such as permission to use a road or driveway; a Right to Place or Keep Something on the Servient Estate Easement, like building a barn or piling wood or brush; a Right to the Support of Land and Buildings Easement; a Right of Entry for Any Purpose Relating to the Dominant Estate Easement, such as to walk or bird-watch; and a Right to Do Some Act that May Otherwise Constitute a Nuisance Easement, like burning, or raising livestock. Ultimately, Easements can be created for any number of reasons, and just as there are many reasons to Create an Easement, there are many different Types of Easements.