Sometimes a person or party who owns or controls a plot of land is not the only party who benefits from that land and its use. When a third party has an interest in the use of land for their own gain but do not own that land, Oklahoma state law may allow them to receive an easement. In basic terms, a court-approved easement allows one party to use the property of another party within set limitations and without ever assigning any particular ownership over said property.
There are two main forms of easements:
- Easement in gross: An easement granted to benefit a specific individual.
- Easement appurtenant: An easement granted in a way that should lead to the benefit of the property or land itself.
A straightforward and common example of an easement in gross is an easement granted to a neighbor for day-to-day purposes. Imagine that you had to walk through your neighbor’s lawn or fields on the way to and from work, or else add another 20 minutes of walking time to your route. You can ask for an easement to let you move across their property, gaining the right to use it but never gaining ownership. An example of an easement appurtenant might be if you want to construct a driveway between your properties and the street. This project should benefit both you and your neighbor, but you need their permission through an easement to complete it.
Express & Implied Easements in Oklahoma
How can you form an easement? Oklahoma recognizes several types, not all of which require the immediate attention of the court. In fact, most easements will only need court approval if someone finds it is worth their time to challenge its validity or existence.
An express easement is one stated within a preexisting deed, contract, or another form of official documentation. Whenever you are buying or renting a piece of property, pay close attention to the contracts for anything that might act as an easement that benefits another party. Talk to an Oklahoma real estate attorney if you are not sure what every clause in your lease, deed, or contract means in legal terms.
An implied easement is any easement created unofficially just through the implied or actual use of the property. Informal easements, like the one in the aforementioned walking example, are quite common and often exist casually between two parties.
Furthermore, implied easements can be created through a variety of ways:
- Necessity: Someone can argue an easement is necessary so long as the land cannot or does not need to be used in a different way. If an alternative solution is found, or the land will be used in a way that conflicts with the party seeking easement, then the easement by necessity will likely be ceased by the court.
- Preexistence: There may be an easement of preexistence – or easement by implication from preexisting use, in some legal settings – if one party was using the land for their benefit without creating any detriment to the landowner. This sort of easement is likely to be established or argued in the walking example. If you walked through your neighbor’s yard to save time and they knew you did, you could assume you had been granted an unofficial easement to do so.
- Prescription: Oklahoma allows a third, less common type of implied easement known as an easement by prescription. In order for a court to approve or recognize an easement by prescription, the party using the land they do not own has to show they consistently used the land to their benefit for at least 15 years.
Creating or Challenging Easements with Legal Counsel
Easements may seem like a somewhat straightforward topic of real estate and property law but there is plenty of room for confusion and argument within them. If you want to gain an official easement to use someone else’s property, or if you want to stop someone from getting an easement over your property, then you should work with Bundren Law Firm P.C. to ensure you prepare your case accordingly. Our Tulsa easement attorney has decades of legal experience you can rely on with confidence.
Discover more about your property rights in Oklahoma by contacting our firm now.