What is an Easement and How Can It Affect Arizona Homeowners?
At a fundamental level, an easement grants legal property access to non-owners for a specified reason. Homeowners may not like the concept of someone else utilizing their property pursuant to the easement, but easements are common in Arizona, where less than one-half of the land in Arizona is privately held. Many homeowners likely have easements that interfere with their property on some level without knowing, such as subdivisions allowing utilities companies property access to comply with local zoning ordinances.
Most easements are non-intrusive and do not cause problems, but homeowners should be aware of how these agreements affect them and their properties and how Arizona easements rights work.
An easement is defined as a person’s or entity’s right to use another property owner’s land for a specific, limited purpose. The property owner retains the right to enjoyment of the land but must be aware that they share the land as defined by the easement. As a homeowner, there are two ways that you may be affected by easements. Your property may contain an easement held by outside parties, in which case, those parties can utilize your land within the set terms of the easement. On the other hand, you may hold an easement that grants you access to someone else’s property.
Easements are created when a need arises, and they are typically planned in advance and then documented in a legal record. These agreements are a crucial part of the title or recorded deed and should be reviewed with an experienced Arizona real estate attorney before purchasing a property. Implied and prescriptive easements can also be created through the conduct of the parties.
Homeowner Easement Rights
If your Arizona property contains an easement, you can generally use the “servient land”—the land that the easement holder uses to his or her benefit—in any way that does not interfere with the easement holder’s specific, limited usage of your property. This limits what you can and cannot do with your land. For example, if a neighbor uses your driveway to access the main road as defined by an easement, you cannot block the driveway.
Conversely, if you are the homeowner who holds an easement, you may not place an “unreasonable burden” on the servient land—the land that the easement holder uses—or formally occupy it. You also may not prevent others from using the property unless they are interfering with your own usage. To continue the previous example, you cannot block other neighbors from using the driveway if they also need access to the main road.
Types of Easements in Arizona
Though Arizona property law recognizes a number of implied and express easements dependent upon circumstantial factors, below are several express easements worthy of mentioning:
- Right-of-Way Easements grant pass-through property access, as described in the driveway example above.
- Easements of Support protect the servient properties’ structures from foundational damage due to digging too deep.
- Easements of “Light and Air” protect the servient property’s views by preventing adjacent property owners from building structures too high.
- Easements Pertaining to Artificial Waterways grant reasonable access to the servient property’s artificial waterways.
- Aviation Easements grant access to the airspace above a property.
How Easements Affect Arizona Property Value
Arizona homeowners can rest assured that most easements do not often impact property value by a significant amount. After all, many homes have utilities easements that allow electrical and other companies access so they can provide their services. Even if your home has an easement that grants access to your neighbors (or to the public), it should not affect the value of your property significantly when it comes time to sell. In some instances, easements can have a material impact on property value. Therefore, it is important to disclose easements to a prospective buyer, in particular unrecorded or implied easements that the buyer may have knowledge of. In this vein, sellers should communicate with prospective buyers about the way the land is used and shared.
Find an Experienced Phoenix Real Estate Attorney
The attorneys at MacQueen & Gottlieb have significant experience with Arizona real estate law. Our attorneys can assist you in any easement case and help you understand your rights as a homeowner. Contact us today at (602) 726-2229 to schedule an initial consultation or make an appointment online.