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What is a Right of Way Easement?

Summer Banks
Summer Banks

A right of way easement is a legal document giving permission for one person or business to use land owned by another person for a stated purpose. Residential and commercial easements of this type can be used to amend a property deed to include permission to use land or space as covered by law. Property easements can reduce land value in certain cases.

Residential right of way easements are often exchanged between neighbors, or members of a community, who wish to gain access to a specific area that can only be reached by passing over another's property. Easements are typically used to grant access to wild lands, national parks, and other public properties bordering private pieces of land.

Neighbors may agree to a right of way easement to access a landlocked property.
Neighbors may agree to a right of way easement to access a landlocked property.

A lawyer may be called to draw up legal papers granting limited or full permission to use a tract of land. Legal documents will often name specific people able to use the easement. In some cases, easements are attached to a piece of property rather than a person. In these cases, deeds for both properties may be changed to include details of the easement papers.

Residential easements may be agreed upon with a financial stipulation. If the private land owner wishes to charge for access rights, amount and payment should be agreed upon before legal documents are drawn and signed. Legal fees may also be charged to one or both parties.

Commercial businesses also require right of way easements to place permanent or temporary structures on private land. Electric companies, for instance, may need legal permission to place electrical poles on a given piece of property. Property owners may need to call in a real estate expert for advice on property values after these structures are in place. In the case of electricity poles, some people believe high-energy electrical lines can cause health problems, which may cause potential buyers to be wary of the home.

If a home is sold with a right of way easement in place, new homeowners may have rights to withdraw easement papers. Typically, in the United States, reasons for easement withdrawal may include:

  • Landowner releasing easement.
  • Abandonment.
  • Non-use.
  • Misuse of land.
  • Change of homeowner issuing easement.

Nearly all cases of right of way easement termination will need to be heard in a court of law. Real estate lawyers are typically trained to deal with ending these long-term property rights. Handling paperwork, legal transactions, and recording of all legal processes may require the expertise beyond that of a typical landowner.

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Discussion Comments


When the company goes out of business that holds the easement, the agreement with the land owners and the business is now gone. The new owners have to come and talk with the land owners and draw up a new contract. If they don't, they have no right to be there, and you can have them removed.


in 1995, a withdrawal of easement was made and the owner sold me the land and now the first party says easement is still good?

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    • Neighbors may agree to a right of way easement to access a landlocked property.
      By: Barbara Helgason
      Neighbors may agree to a right of way easement to access a landlocked property.