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Easements & Encroachments: What to Know!

easements encroachments real estate

Sometimes when you think of the word easement, or especially the word encroachment, an angry old man yelling “Get off my lawn!” might come to mind, but these two similar “e-words” are important to fully understand when buying and selling real estate in Florida. Whether you have been a Florida home buyer, or seller, in the past, you may be familiar with the title search process, which nearly always includes a property survey. A survey is used to determine the exact boundary lines of a property, and within this report you will find out if there are any easements or encroachments to be aware of. But what is an easement? And what is an encroachment? Let’s define these crucial terms.

Easement

An easement is a permitted intrusion onto a property due to a specific need. For example, utility companies may need an easement on a property to be able to perform routine maintenance, or often in Florida we see easements for access to drainage ponds. There could also be a road easement across a portion of a Florida property if it is the only accessible avenue to a public road. So again, an easement is a legally granted right to use or traverse a property to accomplish an otherwise impossible task.

Encroachment

An encroachment, on the other hand, is a non-permitted intrusion onto a property that can either be by accident or intentional. For example, an encroachment could be a driveway or fence that was installed a foot or two over the property line, or it could be a natural occurring encroachment like a tree branch or root meandering over the neighboring property line. Now some encroachments may not be harmful or bother the affected property owner, but the presence of an encroachment could still impact the obtaining of clear title or could have detrimental effects on homeowners insurance, creating additional liability for the affected party. It’s important to also note that encroachments that are easily remedied or removed, such as overgrown bushes or tree limbs, are not as worrisome as more permanent structures would be. In some cases, if the encroachment is too difficult to remedy, the encroaching property owner may need to purchase the portion of property from the affected neighbor in order to alleviate any legal issues down the road.

Now that we better understand easements and encroachments, what should we do with this knowledge? Well, with easements, there may not be much recourse, but it is always good to have a Florida real estate professional identify potential easements for you prior to purchase to avoid any surprises or regrets over the purchase. And with encroachments, it is paramount that these are identified, and that possible fixes are discussed prior to having issues with clear title, insurance, or general angst with a new neighbor. If you have further questions on encroachments and easements, we would be glad to discuss in further detail. Contact us today, and you’re always welcome on our lawn!

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