Understanding Easements & Right-of-Ways

Easements (the most common being a right-of-way) is an existing agreement that gives one party (e.g. an adjacent land owner) the right to use another’s property to her benefit.  A good example of this would be a right-of-way in the form of a driveway or path across a neighbour’s lawn to provide access to a locked parcel of land or waterway. These agreements usually come about by way of neighbourly agreements, with or without financial compensation, or by government intervention (for example, if the provincial power corporation needed to install a line through a rural woodlot). Easements and right-of-ways are automatically transferred from one owner to the next and exist in perpetuity unless released by the dominant party (i.e., the party who is granted access). Now that we have an understanding of how easements work, let’s consider an example of one and how it might affect the value of property.

Let’s say you are considering the purchase of a nice parcel of land in rural Nova Scotia that you consider to be perfect for building your dream home. Everything checks out: the view is perfect, the lot is private, you can obtain all necessary permits, and the price is great! But upon closer inspection, your REALTOR® examines the deed and reveals a right-of-way running across the lot to an adjacent land-locked parcel of land. This right-of-way, currently across a narrow gravel path, is wide enough to construct a private road to municipal standards, and the owner of this land happens to be a subdivision developer in the area. Looking ahead to the future, it is foreseeable that this right-of-way could be used to the developer’s advantage: he maintains the legal right to install a proper road and potentially subdivide his parcel into building lots. Suddenly your peaceful retreat is a high-traffic subdivision; is this reflected in the asking price of the property? I’ll admit this is an extreme example, but worth considering. My point? Consult with a local expert who knows the area and how to interpret every aspect that might affect the value of a property. After all, if the asking price is too good to be true, it probably is!