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Prescriptive Easements

prescriptive easement definition

Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors.

What Is a Prescriptive Easement?

A prescriptive easement is a legal concept. It allows someone other than the original property owner to gain the rights to use a property. Prescriptive easements often arise on rural land when landowners fail to realize part of their land is being used, perhaps by a neighbor.

For example, fences built in incorrect locations often result in the creation of prescriptive easements. If a person uses another's land for more than the statute of limitations period prescribed by state laws on adverse possession, that person may be able to derive an easement by prescription.

Under adverse possession laws, the use of the land must be open, notorious, hostile, and continuous for a specified number of years as required by law in each state

Prescriptive Easement Requirements

The time period for obtaining an easement by adverse possession does not begin to run until the one seeking adverse possession actually trespasses on the land. Thus, a negative easement cannot be acquired by prescription because no trespass takes place. The use of the easement must truly be adverse to the rights of the landowner of the property through which the easement is sought and must be without the landowner's permission.

If the use is with permission, it is not adverse. There must be a demonstration of continuous and uninterrupted use throughout the statute of limitations period prescribed by state law. If the use is too infrequent for a reasonable landowner to bother protesting, the continuity requirement will probably not be satisfied.

"Tacking" the Time Requirement

Subsequent parties in the same position to the land using the right of way adversely can add up the time to meet the required statute of limitations. This situation is known as "tacking". Thus, a prescriptive easement need not be exclusive; it can be shared among several users.

Adverse Possession: What Not to Do

While you may be tempted to begin notoriously and openly possessing your neighbor's land, you may want to think again. Just ask the 22-year-old Albany man who was given a prison sentence for trespassing into another person's home and then filing phony deeds with the county clerk's office. The kicker? He was trying to sell property he didn't own. The moral of the story? Always speak with an attorney before attempting to create your own easement or take another's property.

Prescriptive Easement: Additional Resources

If you have additional concerns or questions after reading this article, you can continue your research right here by clicking on the links below. As always, it is wise to speak with an attorney in your state to understand local laws and any updates or changes.

Get Professional Legal Help With a Prescriptive Easement

There's nothing more stressful than trying to protect your rights to your real estate. You have to follow your state's laws, regulations, and restrictions. While the idea of adverse possession may sound confusing, it doesn't need to be. Learn more about this age-old real estate concept by speaking with a local real estate lawyer today. 

Next Steps

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