A property survey is vital for determining plot boundaries and identifying easements or encroachments on your land.
While they both entail other people using your property, the difference lies with authorization.
An easement is the right for someone else to use a portion of your property. Even though you still own the land and are responsible for maintenance and taxes, others have the right to use that area. Examples of easements are allowing neighbors to pass from their property to the road or granting utility companies access to their equipment on your property. Easements may be in writing or implied and stay with the land regardless of owner.
While an easement is an approved use of your land, an encroachment is when someone uses your property without your consent. There are three types of encroachments:
- Major encroachments: an item on your land that may cause damage to your property or liability concerns
- Minor encroachments: small items such as a bush or tree that is on your property that your neighbor can easily remove
- Structural encroachments: large buildings or structures that extend onto your property, such as fences, sheds or garages that are difficult to move
Encroachments often occur because of confusing property lines. You and your neighbor might easily solve minor situations by removing a bush or trimming a tree. For structural encroachments, you can sell that portion of your property to your neighbor, grant an easement or file a lawsuit to force them to remove it.
When purchasing property, it is crucial to identify any existing easements or encroachments so you are not surprised if someone else has the right to use your land.