Easement agreements can be useful if you find yourself in the middle of a boundary dispute with a neighbor. An easement grants one party the right to use or travel over a piece of property owned by another party. That use can be as broad or specific as the parties like, and can be for a short time or far into the future. Such an agreement can help resolve disputes between neighbors.
Florida recognizes several types of easements, including express easement agreements, prescriptive easements and easements by way of necessity. The last two involve establishing an easement against the wishes of the property owner and often involves lengthy litigation. An easement agreement, on the other hand, involves the parties coming together to create a situation they are both happy with.
Steps to a successful easement agreement
A well thought-out agreement at the front end can save many headaches and arguments down the road. The following items are essential for a successful agreement:
- The correct parties – This one may seem obvious, but make sure the name of the grantor (the property owner granting permission) in the agreement matches the name on the title for the properties at issue. Decide whether the grantee (the person using the grantor’s property) will be a specific person or anyone who may own the neighboring property now or in the future.
- Describing the easement area – Your agreement should contain the legal description for the land at issue. If only a portion of land will be used, such as a road or driveway, you may need to have the land surveyed in order to create a legal description for that portion.
- How much it will cost – Property owners have a right to payment for use of their property. This payment could be in the form of money or some other benefit, such as a mutual easement where both parties are allowed to use the other party’s land.
- How long it will last – Be specific regarding how long the easement will last. Use dates when possible. If you do not give any limitations, you will have a perpetual easement, which means it does not end.
- Describe the easement’s purpose – Usually a neighbor, utility company or construction company needs to access the land for a specific use. For example, if a neighbor wants a right-of-way permission to cross the land to reach access to a lake, you would limit the agreement to that as the purpose.
- Maintenance, improvements and liability- Parties often forget to discuss who will maintain or improve the area, assuming it will be the other party’s job. Similarly, they should discuss whether to protect the property owner from liability.
These are the main items needed in a strong easement agreement, but there are many other minor issues and legal requirements involved in a document you will record with the county. A real estate lawyer can review your agreement to make sure it meets all the legal requirements and avoids unexpected problems.