There are a few real estate terms that can confuse first-time homebuyers. In fact, they can have legal implications that if not understood properly can put you in a jeopardy. One such term that a property owner needs to be familiar with is the easement in gross definition. So, let’s find out what it means and how it impacts real estate laws and your ownership. 

What is the easement in gross definition?

An easement in gross is a real estate concept that grants one party, such as a person or a business, the right to use another party’s property in a specific manner. In some situations, the easement is created by state or local legislation and attached to the land. In others, the holder of the easement pays the owner of the property for the right of usage.

Such an easement, aka personal easement, is generally rendered void if the property owner sells the real estate in question.

Basically, the easement attaches the right of use to an individual or entity instead of the property. The terms of the easement in gross and payment are negotiated between the property owner and the easement holder. The rights can be as broad or specific as desired.

How does an easement in gross work in real estate?

How long is option period

The buyer of an easement in gross may be either an individual (personal) or a business (commercial). Suppose, a family owns a piece of land that borders a highway. And, a moving company wishes to use the land as a shortcut to the highway. They may buy a commercial easement in gross from the landowner. But if the family sold the land to another person, the new owner will not be under any obligation to continue honoring the easement to the moving company. So in that sense, easements are the right of the owner of the real estate. They may sell rights to the land to another person, but will never give them legal ownership of the land. 

A more permanent kind of encumbrance is an easement appurtenant; it even transfers legal rights to a property. 

Easement in gross vs. easement appurtenant

If the easement is attached to a property (instead of an individual as in the case of easement in gross), it’s an easement appurtenant. Here, the easement runs with the land and is part of the property deed. It is transferred or sold with the property. 

Suppose there are two adjoining properties, and the owner of one wants to install a driveway using a few extra feet of the adjoining lot. The other owner may grant the easement for a fee. 

If it’s an easement appurtenant, the rights will be tied to the property itself and continue to transfer to the new owner. But if it’s an easement in gross, the right to use the extra feet will end when the seller’s ownership ends. 

Other common types of easements

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When it comes to property laws, there are several types of easements. Here are a few common easement types.

  • Prescriptive easement: This easement type might be legally recognized if someone has been using the property in a specific way for a long time. For instance, a garden bed that has crossed the property line over time.
  • Utility easement: When a property owner allows a utility company to use their private land for a specific use. For example, a homeowner lets a power company install public infrastructure or maintain the lines that pass through the property. 
  • Avigation easement: When a property owner staying close to an airport gives the government rights to the airspace over the property above a specific height.
  • Easement by necessity: An easement is given if a court determines it’s necessary. For example, if the court allows your neighbor to cut through a part of your property as it’s the only way they can access theirs.

Can you terminate an easement?

The simplest way to terminate an easement is to convince the beneficiary of the right to release or abandon their hold on the easement.

Last thoughts

This type of easement is attached to a person or entity and typically cannot be transferred. Utility companies frequently receive an easement in gross, allowing them to build public infrastructure on privately owned parcels of land. 

The easement is granted to utility companies, a person, or an organization through an economic negotiation with the property owner. Because it has limited scope and duration, the easement can be terminated if the owner sells the property on which the easement was requested. 

If any land is sold without revealing any easements, the new buyer can take legal action to recover any lost value because of the easement. That’s why it’s important for prospective buyers to familiarize themselves with these real estate nuances. A slight misunderstanding or omittance can lead to a serious financial loss.   

Easement in gross definition for real estate newbies was last modified: March 10th, 2023 by Ramona Sinha
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