Road Easements: 12 Things You Must Know In 2024

As you navigate land ownership and purchasing property, you may encounter road easements.

An easement is the legal right of a non-owner to use a part of another person’s land for a specific purpose.

Road easements often come into play when someone needs to access their property.

When there is no roadway between a given parcel of land and public roads, it can become incredibly difficult to legally use the land that you’ve purchased.

In this blog, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about road easements before you buy.

1. What types of easements are there?

There are two main types of easements: appurtenant easements and easements in gross.

Both of these types of easements can be used for ingress, egress, utilities, and drainage.

Here are the core differences you should understand.

bulletAppurtenant Easements

These easements are automatically conveyed with the land they benefit when the land is sold or transferred (unless otherwise expressly stated).

They exist for the benefit of adjoining land, so think of it as an easement for ingress, egress, utilities, or drainage that crosses over a parcel of land that separates the property being benefitted from a public road.

So, if you have a parcel of land that you wouldn’t have access to without crossing an adjoining piece of land, then any road easements would likely be appurtenant easements.

Your parcel would be the “dominant estate” because it is benefitted by the easement.

The parcel over which the easement runs is known as the “servient estate.”

Even if the servient estate is sold or transferred, this does not break an appurtenant easement (even if it isn’t mentioned in the deed!).

bulletEasements in Gross

Rather than benefitting the land, easements in gross are intended to benefit a person or company.

For example, an easement in gross may be given to a utility company by a country or state to run electric, telephone, or internet transmission lines.

This type of easement doesn’t benefit a piece of property, and the utility company doesn’t have to own any land nearby to obtain it.

Easements in gross do not run with the land, and these easements are on “servient estates” because they are not for the benefit of particular properties.

However, similar to the appurtenant easements, the sale of the servient estate does not terminate the easement in gross (even if it isn’t mentioned in the deed!).

2. Did you know there are also negative easements?

Most easements that come to mind are affirmative easements: they give the easement holder the right to do something (such as use a property for ingress or egress).

But there are also negative easements.

These allow the easement holder to prevent the owner of the servient estate from using the property in a specific way (such as a conservation easement).

3. How do you know if there are easements on a property?

Because easements don’t have to be written into the deed to exist, you may be wondering how you’d know if there were easements on land you were going to buy.

In some states, it’s legally required for sellers to disclose easements on their property, so you should have some idea if easements exist when you enter a purchase agreement.

However, if you’re purchasing a bank-owned home, then you may need to do some due diligence.

In order to find out, you’d want to break up your search based on the type of easement.

bulletUtility easement:

This type of easement gives permission to utility companies to install power lines, a cell phone tower, etc. on your property.

Call your local utility company or go to the county land records office or city hall.

You can ask a clerk to show you a map of the easement locations.

You could also get a survey of the property to show the location of any utility easements.

bulletPrivate easement:

Private easements often come in the form of a path, driveway, sewer, or solar access.

If your title contains private easements, then you should get copies of the actual easement documents when purchasing the property.

You’ll be able to find a reference number on those documents.

The county clerk can also help you locate these private easements in the public records, so you can obtain a copy to keep with your deed.

bulletEasement by necessity:

Here’s where it can get confusing for landowners or potential buyers.

Sometimes a legal easement doesn’t have to be written down to exist.

If it’s absolutely necessary to cross someone’s land for a legitimate purpose (like access to their home), then there may be an “easement by necessity.”

In this case, you cannot interfere with your neighbor’s legal rights.

If you notice this is happening, you may need to talk to a lawyer to find out your options.

bulletPrescriptive easements:

A prescriptive easement is similar to an easement by necessity in that it allows someone to access another’s land for a particular purpose (like accessing their home).

However, it typically only comes into play after a set period of time.

For example, prescriptive road easements may be created if you had been using a part of a neighbor’s property for access without a formal easement for the past 20 years.

This essentially allows the easement holder to adversely possess a portion of the servient lot for a specific purpose.

Different states have different rules and regulations.

The best thing you can do is look up “easements” in the index of your state statutes so you can understand court decisions on prescriptive easements.

As you can see, there are a number of different easements that may exist on your property and not all of them will be easily searchable in public records.

To be absolutely certain that you have found all easements on your property, your best bet is to have a title search done.

4. What can I do if I don’t like people on my property?

Property owners are not able to interfere with the purpose of a legal easement.

For example, if an electric company with a utility easement has strung wires across its right of way, you’re not legally allowed to take them down or block their path.

Interfering with an easement can make you liable for damage and subject to court action.

If you feel like someone is illegally trespassing on your property or you have good reason to dispute the easement, then you should talk to an experienced local real estate attorney.

They can offer advice on the best way to proceed (especially if there’s nothing in writing). 

5. Why do road easements exist?

Road easements exist for the purpose of ingress and egress – the right to enter and exit a property.

This need occurs when a parcel of land does not adjoin a public roadway.

If you purchase a land that is itself “landlocked” then you would need a road easement to access your property.

Buyers of homes and land should condition their purchase of the property upon having ingress and egress to a public road.

If you do not have this, then you won’t be able to access the land or home that you’ve purchased.

You can ensure that you have this by getting a land survey prior to closing on the property.

To have access without an easement, at least one boundary of the property must exactly coincide without gap or deviation with the edge of a roadway.

This is known as the right-of-way line.

If these lines do not coincide, then you (as the buyer) need to be certain that the property in question has an easement that provides the buyer the legal right to cross over whatever property lies between your property and the public road.

If you plan to live on the property, then you should also include the right to utility lines and pipes in addition to the road easement.

Without this, not only is the land difficult to live on, but it loses a lot of value.

You likely would have a hard time selling the property if you ever had that desire.

6. How do you create an easement?

Easements are typically created in documents (although they do not need to be).

Easements can be created in deeds, easement agreements, subdivision declarations, and condominium declarations.

All of these are recorded in the land records just like deeds or mortgages.

If you’re interested in creating an easement, it’s best practice to use an easement in an agreement or declaration (rather than a deed) because this will help you address all of the issues pertaining to easements.

After you’ve drawn up the document, get it notarized by a public notary with two witnesses present.

7. What’s the difference between a private road and an easement?

A road easement provides someone the right to pass over someone else’s property to access their own.

Not all easements are road easements.

For example, some appurtenant easements are used by utility companies to place cell towers on people’s land.

To be brief, while all private roads are also easements, not all easements are private roads.

Private roads provide access in the same way that a road easement would, and it wasn’t until some state court cases started trying to define the meaning of “private road” that confusion occurred.

How a private road is defined will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

However, both road easements and private roads are similar in that a municipality has no right to use or regulate either without the consent of the landowner or the imposition of a statute.

8. Who is responsible for maintaining a road easement?

The laws governing easements can be complicated and will vary from state to state.

However, it is usually the person or party using the easement (also known as the easement holder) is often the one with the duty to maintain it.

While the easement owners aren’t the owners of the land itself, they should maintain it as they are using it.

The landowner (easement owner) will retain most rights over it.

So, what does this mean when it comes to a road easement?

Easement owners will still be able to clear away brush or pave an unpaved road.

However, they can’t block any of the easement holder’s use or enjoyment.

They also are under no duty or obligation to maintain or repair the easement’s improvements.

They are able to do so if desired, but they are in no way required to. 

9. How is an easement outlined?

Easements are given for specific purposes in a specific location (ingress, egress, utilities, drainage, etc.).

A road easement is provided for ingress and egress.

In most cases, easement agreements often outline the specific location in which the easement can be used on the servient estates.

So, if you have a road easement, you won’t be able to drive through your neighbor’s property wherever you want.

There will be a specific place outlined so that the easement holder cannot overexercise the power provided by the easement.

10. Are there restrictions on how road easements can be used?

In general, easements must be used for their original purposes.

However, if there is a need for changes then their uses may be modified to suit reasonable development.

All that to say, just because you’ve granted a road easement (as an easement owner) doesn’t mean that an easement holder is able to use it for whatever they please.

For instance, if there was an event (concert, festival, etc.) occurring nearby, the easement holder wouldn’t be able to use the road or driveway as a paid parking area for the property (thus making money off of it).

That said, easement holders should be able to use and enjoy the agreement within reasonable bounds, and one or two nights of people parking on the driveway for a private party may not be a problem.

11. Can easements impact any renovations or additions?  

This can be a huge question for land buyers looking to purchase a home or piece of land with the intention of building.

In this case, it’s especially important to know what easements exist on the property so you don’t create unnecessary legal complications that interfere with the easement holder’s right to use and enjoy what’s outlined in the easement. 

12. Can easements be terminated?

Yes, easements can be terminated in a few different ways depending on who does it.

Here’s what you need to know.

bulletBy the easement holder

The easement holder may terminate the easement by executing, delivering, and recording a written release of the easement, also known as a quit claim deed, conveying the easement back to the easement owner.

bulletBy mutual agreement

If both the easement holder and the easement owner are in agreement, then they can execute and record a termination of the easement.

This document should contain a written release of the easement (a quit claim deed) by the easement holder conveying the easement back to the easement owner.

bulletBy doctrine of merger

If the easement holder becomes the owner of both properties (over which the easement runs), then there is a “unity of two titles.”

Owners have no need for an easement on their own property, and thus the easement will have merged out of existence.

Final thoughts

A road easement gives you the right to access a part of someone else’s property to enter and exit your own.

They are commonly given to property owners with landlocked property.

The rules for easements vary by state, municipality, and the type of use involved.

Thus, it’s important to do research on the property you’re buying to understand if you have a need for any easements OR if any easements are currently on your property.

Consult your real estate agent or an experienced local real estate attorney who can help you with these details.

If the information regarding a road easement doesn’t already exist in the documents for your property, you may need to seek more information with your local county records or have a title search done.

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Erika Gokce Capital

Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.


166 thoughts on “Road Easements: 12 Things You Must Know In 2024”

  1. Can a property owner post a speed limit or control the speed of ingress and egress by installing traffic bumps to inhibit unsafe vehicle speeds in a residential neighborhood?

    • Hello Bill, that really depends on the terms of the easement and who owns it. If it is a public road easement or if the easement is owned by an association or other organization, the individual property owners likely won’t have any right to control the speed of ingress and egress.

      • Hello Erika,
        What about if the reason for the easement no longer exists. For example the easement was granted to supply access for the neighbor to get to the main road. Years later the neighbor paves their own road on their property allowing them to access the main road using their own property. Would this extinguish the reason for the easement? Does the necessity no longer exist?

        • Hello Brandon, it really depends on the specifics of the easement in question and how it was created (via an easement agreement or deed vs a court-ordered easement). I am not a lawyer myself, so I would check with a local land use attorney, but my understanding is that most easement agreements are created essentially in perpetuity (regardless of whether the necessity continues to exist or not).

          • Yes, it was a right of way agreement that says in memorial and State’s it’s to gain access to the main road . So that’s means it would be really hard to have it extinguished regardless of the necessity it was created for us gone?

          • Hello Brandon, that may certainly be the case, but I would recommend speaking with an attorney.

          • Hi Erika,
            Could a neighbor behind the property with the easement tear down their back fence and then use the easement as a short cut to their property even if they have road access to their property?

          • Hello Pat, unfortunately, this is getting a bit more in the weeds, and the answer is going to depend on local laws and the specifics of the easement. I would recommend speaking with a local land use attorney.

    • I found out a supposed easement on my property that 2 title searches don’t show nor 2 survey the city of Benton Arkansas told the neighbor he could do what ever he wanted on 15 foot of our property. The city took down private road sign and put up public easement sign right under it it says city maintenance ends. We are to maintain it and the across the street neighbor don’t help nor pays taxes on it. It screws the property owner when it was not on anything when we built in 2011.

  2. I see that the property owner is responsible for easement maintenance. Are other easement users allowed to participate, or assume/usurp responsibility for the maintenance, or does the property owner have exclusive rights to maintenance? This question pertains to the need to reduce traffic speeds with the addition of speed bumps.

    • Hello Bill, if you are talking about a private easement between two property owners, then the terms of the easement should dictate who has the right to maintain it. I would recommend having a lawyer take a look at the easement in question to see who is allowed to maintain the easement and make modifications (such as speed bumps).

    • I own the propery and have an easement with the neighbor far back. This is out of city limits. Am I allowed to put security cameras pointing at who comes and goes? Remember I own the property. The easement is for access only for the neighbor.

      • I would recommend speaking with a local attorney, but I would think you are able to put security cameras up, especially if they are located off of the easement itself.

  3. road easement allows property owners to AGREED upon who ACcesses and EXITS OF their PROPERTY… No trespassing signs are helpful prevention as well but all else call the police cause no should be allowed to use your property line as ways of travel to and from without your agreed upon permission

    • You’re right, Shannon. Generally, only the property owner of the landlocked parcel has the legal right to use your property for access.

      • How about the US Postal Service? I have an easement between my neighbor and I in NC that’s deeded specifically to service both lots. What I am garnering from this is that anyone other than myself have no right to access this driveway, even for delivery. Is that correct?

        • Hello William, that’s a very good question. I would assume that the access easement would also give the right to USPS and the like to deliver packages, but you may want to check with a local land use attorney.

  4. Can the easement holders owns runs a commercial trucks allowed to utilize the private road/ easement every day damaging the private rd? Can they WIDEn the driveway?

    • Hello Moni, all of this is dependent on what is negotiated between the parties involved and what ultimately gets recorded in the easement. If you are in the process of negotiating an easement, it is best to consult with a lawyer and ensure that all your concerns are addressed.

      • What is there were no negotiations regarding an easement prior to the aposing party purchasing the land? Went from 10 cars a day to commercial traffic of 60+ cars per day.

        • Hello Timothy, I’m sorry to hear about your predicament. Unfortunately, if the easement is already in place, they likely don’t need to negotiate with you so long as their use is still covered by the recorded easement. I would recommend speaking with a local land use attorney to see if you have any recourse.

  5. HOw wide is a road easement?

  6. What is the width of an easement if it supplies 2 buldable properties?

    • Hello Jenet, the width is dependent on what is stipulated in the recorded easement and will vary based on what is negotiated with the two landowners.

  7. So if yiu have an easement thag runs through the middle of your prOperty to allow other ResIdents/neighbours access tot heir prOperty But then they start up and aribnb and also renting out small buildings for stay year riund and thOse people are now using the easement for profIt ? Their guests are using When it runs through our property we now lost out priVacy from Unkown people crossing our land to get to their propertY to rent.

    • Hello Deb, that does sound like a bad situation. I would recommend calling a local real estate attorney to see what solutions are available to you.

  8. If i have a right of way to access my property (home) os it leGal to put up a automatic gate at on the right of wAy to prevent TRESPASSERs from coming onto
    My property?

    • Hello Robert, what you are allowed to do with the right of way would be dependent on what is written in the easement. I would have a local real estate attorney take a look to help you answer this question.

  9. We bought a horse farm but we were not advised by the prior owner that an easement existed for an HOA across a lake, whom have no other direct access except through ours. We are the only home dwelling behind the gate and behind property lines on either side of the gate, which is our private property. This HOA has a landlocked “common area,” that they don’t use with a small pavilion. We assumed WE owned our driveway where our mailbox is and gate, as it goes directly to our home ONLY and simply passes the landlocked lot in question. However, we found out that THEY own our driveway and we only have easement! They are now harassing us and it has caused liability issues for our farm as they have gate keys to access our farm gates!!! An attorney has been hired, but my question is this: Did the prior owners have a duty to properly inform us of the backwards easement (any easement) and that we didn’t even own our own driveway and our farm is NOT even part of the HOA?

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your situation. Generally, yes, the seller needs to disclose everything they know about the property, but it’s also going to depend on state laws and how the purchase contract was written. Your attorney should be able to tell you if you would be entitled to any recourse from your seller. Best of luck, I do hope you are able to resolve the situation or get your money back!

      • What clauses or words in the purchase contract would allow someone to not disclose that? Our lawyer seems to think because it was “public record” she is free of liability; I beg to differ. That’s why I jumped on here to ask. We are a military family that was not able to come view the property due to military obligations and we were very transparent about that with all parties as well. They clearly took advantage of us! But I can’t fathom there is no recourse in Georgia.

        • By “public record” I mean on the plat map for the county it has the abbreviation IPE on the driveway. How would layperson be expected to know or even assume that their driveway w/it’s associated mailbox and it’s the ONLY home on the drive/property… was not there’s or to go digging to research that!? Who in their right mind would have thought to do that? Also, wouldn’t the real estate agent also be liable for bringing something like that to our attention because they understand those things better than lay people?

        • I should say that we are not lawyers, so we are limited in the degree that we can advise you, but we typically use the following website to pull up the standard purchase and sale agreement for a state: The template purchase agreement on this website does have a line that clearly states the buyer is buying the property as is: “Except as otherwise stated in this Agreement, after recording, the
          Buyer shall accept the Property AS IS, WHERE IS, with all defects, latent or otherwise. Neither Seller nor their licensed real estate agent(s) or any other agent(s) of the Seller, shall be bound to any representation or warranty of any kind relating in any way to the Property or its condition,
          quality or quantity, except as specifically set forth in this Agreement or any property disclosure, which contains representations of the Seller only, and which is based upon the best of the Seller’s personal knowledge.”

          The template disclosure form included on this website does have a line to indicate whether there is an unrecorded easement or not; however, the website also says: “No law states that the seller of a residence has to supply the buyer with a disclosure form listing material facts associated with the property. That being said, it is still highly recommended that this document be executed in order to avoid any type of future dispute.” I should also note that the line in the disclosure statement appears to just be for unrecorded easements.

          Did you acquire the property with title insurance? If the easement was recorded, the title search should usually find it so I’m a bit surprised the title company didn’t catch this.

          • We did have title insurance. We have contacted them and that insurance is only for the loan company not for us apparently. But the title company did not catch it either. They also didn’t catch a “gore” on the property, in the middle of a pasture of which was a pasture since the 80’s. The whole thing is very screwy and unethical. With what you provided, it seems that NOTHING can be refuted in court. What you provided is worded very iron clad for the seller and agents. So how would one ever even attempt a non disclosure case with a contract like that?

        • Take it to the Georgia Real Estate Division – they govern real estate agents/licenses and HOA disclosure. They will investigate on your behalf and determine recourse. At the very least, you will get an honest answer.

  10. We own a property that 5 homes behind ours and they have an easement through our property. A new road has been built that that parallels those properties and they could now access that road by simply connecting to it easily. Can we force them to connect to that road thereby rendering our easement to them unnecessary? Also, they want to pave our easement to them which we have declined. The easement is currently gravel…

    • Hello Kevin, easements (and real estate in general) are often covered by local laws and so what you are allowed to do will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In addition, easements are also governed by the specifics of the executed easement agreement. I would advise that you speak with a local real estate attorney who is familiar with local laws to see what your options are.

      • In a related matter. One of the 5 that use the easement has allowed a trail through their property and we now have constant foot and bike traffic passing through our property on the easement that is only meant for the 5 homes behind us. Can we send them a cease and desist letter to stop the flow of pedestrians that eventually pass through our property. Are we liable if any of these pedestrians get injured as it stands now? Thanks in Advance!

        • Hello Kevin, unfortunately, these are legal questions that I cannot answer. I would highly recommend working with a local land use attorney to see what your liabilities are and what recourse you may have.

  11. Shared property line: Lot 1 (back/side property) claims “right of way/easement” to egress & ingress Lot 2’s deeded property and remove an abutting 10′ x 25′ of lawn area replacing this grass with gravel or paving as part of their driveway in order to connect and access Lot 2’s driveway which connects to a public street (260′ of “paper alley” — borough never accepted dedication of it as an alley for 73 years (1947). Borough zoning ordinance states: “Proposed driveway MUST CONNECT DIRECTLY TO A PUBLIC STREET.” Can Lot 1 legally remove Lot 2’s grass plot and construct a gravel/paved roadway to connect to the existing paved driveway of Lot 2? Lot 1 contends that by connecting to an already existing “roadway/driveway” that it meets the requirement of the Ordinance! They already have a driveway in the front of the house with a 2-car garage and a parking pad for two cars which connects to a public street.

    • Hello Ellen, it really depends on what is specified in the easement agreement or deed as well as the county/city’s rules regarding driveways. I would have a local land use attorney review the situation and the language in all relevant legal documents to see if the owner of lot 1 is within their rights or not.

  12. We purchased property and signed an easement and road maintenance plan. The easement is defined as 30 ft wide, used for access to other properties. The county is saying the easement is a private road with a building setback of 55 ft. Is an easement for this purpose the same as a private road?

    • Hello Don, what is considered a road (private or otherwise) is generally based on the county’s rules and regulations. Unfortunately, if they are telling you that they would classify the easement as a private road, then that is what they would consider it from the standpoint of building and zoning regulations. However, you could always check with a local land use attorney to see if you have any options.

  13. There is a road easement running through my property.We have a road maintenance association which maintains the road.The local electric company was responsible for a wildfire that killed many trees along the road.These trees are constantly falling on the road. All of the dead trees in the road maintenance easement should be cut down, as a matter of safety.I don’t have the money.The electric company has claimed responsibility.Sometime in the future, I will probably be awarded money to deal with these trees. They are extremely dangerous now, however. Is the safety of a road implied in a road Easement. Should the road maintenance association pay for the removal of the hazardous trees? The total cost could be divided among all of the owners.When I receive compensation for the destroyed trees from the electric company, I could reimburse the road maintenance association.

    • Hello Dave, this all depends on what is specifically delineated in the easement and in the documents outlining the road maintenance association’s responsibilities. There may also be local laws that require the trees to be removed given that they are a safety hazard. You may want to speak with a local land use attorney to understand what your responsibilities are.

  14. I own a private road with several houses on it. My one neighbor put metal stakes on the road about 3 inches from her yard. I asked her to take them down because they were on the road right of way and she argued they were on her yard. I told no I have a fifty foot road right of way to please remove them. The argument went on and on. I got my property map out and she still insists it’s her yard. I told her she had to remove the stakes because if someone scratches their vehicle I’m responsible not her. Now she’s very angry, but said she take them down but still is insisting it’s her yard not the road right of way. Am I right?

    • Hello Gloria, it all depends on what the deed’s legal description says. The surveyor should have accurately mapped the right-of-way based on the metes and bounds in the deed, but you may also want to check with a local real estate attorney.

  15. Hi

    If a right of way easement was made on my driveway at the bottom of a yard for a landlocked owner to use and the building on the land was then demolished making an open lot to the top yard owner also and another alternative access point was available at a road at the top of the yard which has been established for over 50 years for the top yard can the easement be revoked as not needed anymore as they can get to their property easier than through my drive?

    The whole lot is open and that alternative entrance has been used for over 28 years.. they want to use my drive again? Why?? They have access already and have been using freely for 28 years. Can they force me to take my back fence down and let them have my driveway as a road again??

    I stated it was only because the land at the time was land locked now its open at the top (28 years)

    Can they legally force me to open the road on my drive again?

    • Hello Donna, it really depends on the language in the easement. I would recommend contacting a local real estate attorney to go over the language and advice you on what your rights are vis. the easement holder’s rights.

  16. In a easement where both neighbors have a right of way. One neighbor has the land below him that he/she access to their property. They use the roadway as a dirt bike trail with the neighbors grandchildren which are in their 20s use it to speed up and down the roadway pass our house. We can’t even sit out in our yard when they are doing this and even inside it is very annoying. We have asked them to slow down when going by our house but the neighbor insists they have the right away and they can do whatever they want on it.

    • I’m very sorry to hear about your situation, Barbara. You may have done so already, but if not, you might want to speak with a land use attorney to see if there is anything you can do about the nuisance.

  17. Hello, I live on a paved private lane with access to public road, we have a street sign dictating that. it is a private lane, I have to go through 2 pieces of property to get to my house. what is that easement called And what rights do I have to that easement, for my neighbours to that easement. thank you

    • Hello Mark, it really depends on the specific language in the easement. I would check with a local real estate attorney to see what they say. You can also look at your deed and see if any mention is made of an easement.

  18. So I have a utility easement in the back part of my yard. However the community is using it as a trail to ride golf carts, dirt bikes, ATV, etc. The dirt that is kicked up makes it so I cannot sit in my backyard . I never know who is back there and I do not like strangers being on my property. I cannot put a fence across the easement road , as the utility company needs access.
    What if one of these kids gets hurt on my par of the property, am I liable?
    Is there a way to have them stop being on my property?