Sarah Ashton: Know Your Easements

by Sarah Ashton, Broker Associate, Re/Max of the Islands

Easement – “A legal right to use another’s land for a specific, limited purpose”

Many properties on Sanibel and Captiva contain easements. Most common are the Utilities easement for Electric, Water and Sewer or the municipal Right of Way easement next to the street. Aside from these however are less common, but no less important easements that may be on your property and can affect your use and enjoyment.

Living in beach communities where not every property has direct access to the beach, a common practice was for near beach property owners to purchase a Beach easement for either just for themselves and their property, or for an entire subdivision or group of subdivisions to acquire an access. These are typically written up as a legal Beach Easement that identifies the mapping coordinates of the location of the walkway and sets out whether the easement agreement will pass on to future owners of the property. These are often referred to in Real Estate Listing as “deeded beach access”.

It is also sometimes the case that a Gulf front property will want to have access to a Dock for boating. This is more common on Captiva where originally the lots of land we actually “Gulf to Bay” and were subsequently sub-divided. These Dock Easements can be very confusing and are not always well understood by the property owners.

Also to keep in mind, when someone is granted an easement, he is granted the legal right to use the property, as defined (i.e. 5 foot path) but the legal title to the land itself, remains with the owner of the land. It is also true, that the maintenance of the easement is the responsibility of the easement holder, not the owner of the land. This is where things can get very touchy because if the easement isn’t maintained, it will appear that the easement land is simply part of the lot of the property owner and may become overgrown or landscaped with other plantings. Walking outside of the easement would constitute trespassing.

Bottom line – if your property has an easement on it – and a survey should indicate it – or if you have rights to an easement – be aware and informed.

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