How do rights of way work in property law?
Is there an easement on the home you’re buying?
When you’re considering buying a property, you’ll want to know everything about your rights before you commit to the purchase. Your conveyancing team will conduct detailed searches on the property and the land it sits on, and one issue that might arise is the topic of easements.
What is an easement?
Our property solicitors Essex team explain that easements are rights of way across another person’s land. For example, if you own a home with a large garden backing onto fields that don’t belong to you, then there might be an easement allowing rights for a farmer to access their land by moving through your garden.
Another example is if there’s a row of cottages and only one direct path to the road, then each cottage resident may have to walk through their neighbours' gardens to reach the street.
What are the most common reasons for easements?
The legal right to exercise privileges over another person’s land is commonly used for:
- Rights of access
- Rights of way
- Rights of drainage or utilities
How are rights of way created?
Rights of way, or easements are often long-established and will be recorded in your property’s deeds. But alternatively, they can be created over time, if a right has been used for at least 20 years or more. You will also find them detailed in Section 62 of the Law of Property Act. This section explains that when an owner disposes of part of their land, the privileges associated with the land must be converted to legal easements unless this is formally excluded within the transfer documentation. However, this does not work in reverse.
Is it possible to remove a property easement?
As most easements are well-established, it can be extremely difficult to have them removed. As a bare minimum you will need consent from the parties who have been benefitting from the easement. If you can prove that the purpose of the easement no longer exists, for example if an outdoor toilet is permanently dismantled, then this can stand in your favour. It is much more challenging to have an easement removed based purely on the fact that no one uses it.
However, each easement issue can be treated on a case-by-case basis.
Contact our property solicitors Essex team
If there is an easement attached to the property you’re hoping to purchase, it’s critical to seek legal advice from our property solicitors Essex team. We can offer professional guidance on the implications of the easement, how it might work in practice and what the consequences might be down the line, including how this could affect a future sale.