Utility Easement (Legal Definition And Examples: All You Need To Know)

What is a Utility Easement?

How do public utility easements work?

What are the important elements you should know!

Keep reading as we have gathered exactly the information that you need!

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Utility Easement Basics

A utility easement represents the right given to utility companies to use and access a part of a property owner’s land.

Utility right of way easement, utility pole easement or any other type of utility easement is written in the property deed.

To better understand what type of easement rights you have granted a utility, you should look at what’s written in your deed of property.

If you are buying a new property, you can do a title search to determine the nature of the easements that “run with the land” or you will inherit when you buy the property.

Utilities can include services like:

  • Gas
  • Electricity
  • Water
  • Sewer lines
  • Television lines 
  • Cable lines
  • Internet cables 
  • Satellite television 

Utility easement rights are linked directly to the land.

Should a property owner sell their property, all utility easements will be transferred from the seller to the buyer through the property deed. 

There are different types of utility easements:

  • Utility easements below ground
  • Utility easements above ground
  • Private utility easement
  • Public utility easement 

No matter the type of utility easement you are dealing with, whether it’s given to a private company or public one, below or above ground, the idea is to let a utility company use and access your land to install and maintain utility services.

Utility Easement definition

How do you define a utility easement?

A utility easement is a legal designation on land or property where the property owner grants utility companies the right of physical access and to build on a designated area of the land.

Utility easements are created at the time a plat for new development is designed.

Typically, the land’s designated area for utility easement purposes runs along the streets or along the rear lot lines.

Purpose 

Why do we have a public utility easement or a private one?

Utility easement laws exist to allow everyone to benefit from cheaper and more efficient access to utility.

It’s much more effective for a utility company to run power lines in a straight line to power your neighbourhood or city than to deal with individual property owners or run lines around property borders.

With every property owner granting a utility easement for the utility companies to serve the community, they can reduce their operational costs, use less raw material and maintain the entire infrastructure more effectively.

Each property owner assumes a small inconvenience by granting an easement on their property but will benefit in the long run by paying less for utilities.

Property owner rights 

Even though a property owner grants use and access rights to the property to serve the property with utility services, the property owner remains the land owner.

This means that although the owner’s right to use the area of the land subject to a utility easement is limited, the owner will still be responsible for paying taxes on the land and maintain the land.

Utility easements on property does not convey title to the property but grants “rights” of use and access by a utility company to service to land or property.

On the flip side, granting a public utility easement restricts the property owner from fully and absolutely using the land and property as pleased.

However, if a utility company abuses its use and access rights, a homeowner can legally sue the utility company to ensure the abusive actions cease or get damages.

Utility company rights 

When a utility easement is granted on a property, the landowner must respect the area or space given to the utility company and keep the easement area free and clear of any obstruction.

For instance, if you gave a company the right to use a small corridor of land to run sewer lines, you cannot build or create something that may prevent the company from running the sewer lines or maintaining them.

If you build something that interferes with the utility company’s ability to perform its services, it will have the right to have you remove the obstruction.

It’s worth noting that under the utility easement law, such easements do not expire with the passing of time.

When you grant a private utility easement or a public one, the rights will remain with the land permanently.

Example 

Let’s look at an example of a utility easement granted on a property.

The most common example is a utility easement is to grant a power company the right to run and install electrical lines on your property.

As such, the utility has the right to:

  • Access your land to install the lines
  • Install utility poles
  • Enter your land to repair the utility lines
  • Enter your land to repair the lines

In essence, the utility company easement is a right granted to the utility company to access, install, maintain and repair utility lines on your property.

On the one hand, the easement does not make the utility company the owner of your land.

On the other hand, as the property owner, your right of enjoyment of your land is limited or restricted as you need to accept the installation of a utility pole and leave sufficient space for the company to access your land to be able to service the utility lines.

Takeaways 

So what is the legal definition of Utility Easement?

Let’s look at a summary of our findings.

Utility Easement:

  • Utility easements on private property is the right given to a utility company to access and use for the purposes of offering utility services to the property or neighborhood 
  • A utility easement does not grant any property rights to the utility company but the property owner’s rights to fully enjoy the property is limited 
  • Utility services include gas, electricity, water, cable, Internet, television or other
Access Easement
Adverse possession 
Affirmative Easement
Apparent Easement
Appurtenant Easement
Avigation Easement
Common Easement
Conservation Easement
Continuous Easement
Conveyance Deed 
Cross Easements
Easement appurtenant 
Easement by necessity 
Easement by prescription 
Easement in gross
Equitable servitude 
Neighbor disputes 
Property boundaries 
Property law 
Property ownership 
Real estate lawyer 
Real property 
Rights of way easement 
Structural encroachment 
Trespassing
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