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Understanding the types of California easements

The land you own, whether its private property for your home or a piece of commercial real estate may be subject to easements for utilities, roads and other infrastructure. Easements constitute an entity’s right of a property that is not their own for some specific use. This use is typically limited, though potentially indefinite in its time scale. It doesn’t allow for tenancy or the right to profit from another person’s property/land.

California’s defined categories

California law establishes four easement definitions for such purposes as access to public resources, infrastructure and other uses:

  1. Easement by prescription: This easement may be used if a person can prove their continual and open use of a property for a period of fiver years or more.
  2. Easement by implication: After the division of a tract of land, an easement might be necessary for one of those parcels to have access to public roads when there is a ‘strict necessity’ for it.
  3. Easement by necessity: This is similar to an easement by implication, except it may be employed when there is no possible alternative for a landlocked parcel.
  4. Easement by express grant: This can be created via a deed or contract to provide an easement for use by another estate.

How conservation easements differ in structure and use

These forms of an easement lie in contrast to conservation easements, which are agreements between a landowner and a certified land trust, conservation organization, or government agency related to the future use of and environmental protection of private property. The USDA organizes California’s conservation easements under its Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) under the designations of its Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). The two easements it offers are Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) and Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE). Agricultural easements assist farmers and land managers in carrying out production goals while conserving valuable soils, grazing opportunities and the integrity of wetland systems.

Researching a property before its sale

Though many easements are part of public record and certain regulatory agencies, there may not be an existing record at the time of a property sale. It is crucial to inspect a piece of property to determine if it has easements present. A lawyer with in-depth knowledge of easements in California can guide you through the research necessary before a sale or in pursuing your options when an unknown easement is exposed.