First, let’s define easement: An easement is the legal right to cross over someone else’s land. Owners, particularly landowners in rural areas, often require an easement to access their land. In other words, without an easement, many parcels would be landlocked.
Easement for ingress and egress is a fancy way of saying that an easement allows someone to travel to and from the land. For example, let’s say Alice can’t get to her property from a public road without crossing over her neighbor Bill’s property. In this situation, Alice needs an easement for ingress and egress over Bill’s property.
How can Alice get an easement? There are three primary ways:
- Express Easement
- Implied Easement
- Prescriptive Easement
First, there are express easements. That is where Bill signs a document saying Alice has an easement over his property. Alice then files that document at the County Recorder’s Office, so the public record would show she has the easement. If Alice and Bill can agree, this is the easiest way for Alice to get an easement because it does not require court action.
Next, there are implied easements. Consider this scenario: Alice owns Lot A and the abutting Lot B. Lot B is on the public road, but Lot A is not. Alice has historically crossed over Lot B to reach Lot A. Alice sells Lot B to Bill and sells Lot A to Charlie. In this case, a court will likely rule that Charlie has an “implied” easement over Bill’s property, because otherwise the parcel would be landlocked.
Finally, there are prescriptive easements, also known as easements created by the usage of a path or road. If Alice crosses Bill’s property to reach her property for a certain period of time, and her use is open, “notorious” (i.e., generally known to Bill), continuous, and “hostile,” Alice would be said to hold a prescriptive easement over Bill’s land. Different states have different laws about what is considered “hostile” and how much time is required for such use. Generally, the term “hostile” in this context does not mean fighting, but the use of someone else’s property without permission.
To be enforced, both prescriptive and implied easements require having a court examine the facts and rule that the easement exists.