What “Easement” Means for You, the Home Owner

Posted: 09/02/2014

Springfield and the surrounding metropolitan area (if you want to call it that – metro with down-home feel, you could say) seems to be ever growing. Sure, there are empty buildings on every corner too, but new ones are going up alongside them, the population grows, new businesses open, new homes built.

And more traffic. While we certainly don’t have to endure hour long commutes over a 20 mile stretch of highway like other Missouri cities, traipsing down National at 8:00 AM is no picnic.

Can you imagine living in one of those houses on National, just north of Sunshine? I always wonder what it’s like for career-minded individuals who live in that area and are trying to get to work in the morning. Or the moms and dads trying to get their kids to school on time.

Especially when the city decides that the road on one of these traffic heavy streets needs to be a little bit wider to lessen the jam-packed, bumper-to-bumper wait at the intersection.

In which case, the city will start digging up your front yard, and creating more chaos in order to squelch the chaos later (hopefully). This, my friend, is called “easement,” and it means your yard is partially owned by city municipalities to do with as they please.

The Legality of an Easement
First, any easement on your property will be laid out in writing within the title. If you’re uncertain whether there is an easement on your property, check there first, or call the county Assessor’s office. The most common form is a Utility Easement, which gives the city and is divisions (utility company, water company, etc) access to a certain portion of your land for repairs or renovations.

For example, the utility company may need to replace buried utility lines on your property and, with and easement, you must give them access (even if it destroys your landscaping). Likewise, the city may have an easement on the first several feet of yard along a road for homes on streets with heavier traffic, in case there is a need for expansion later.

Keep in mind, that there may be an unwritten easement on your property unassociated with any local municipality. For example, if your neighbor’s only access to his backyard garage is by utilizing your driveway, this is called and “Easement by Necessity” or a “Prescriptive Easement.” Basically, the law will recognize the neighbor’s right to access their land, even if yours is in the way. If their access to your land causes problems, however, you can fight in court to relinquish that access.

Conflict Over an Easement
It’s not necessarily impossible to dispute an easement, but it can be difficult. If the City of Springfield owns and easement on your property, then you can file an Application for Relinquishment of Easement. Ideally, you don’t want to wait until the city starts knocking on your door to inform you their going to be tearing up your yard next week to file this form. This is something you should do upon acquiring a property with an easement attached.

Keep in mind, however, that your reasons for relinquishment have to be more than an adverse reaction to your beautiful green grass in disarray. Of course, the city is pretty vague on what reasons they would approve.

In regard to fighting an easement of necessity, you would have to provide proof of some kind that it’s causing a problem to give your neighbor access to your property, such as property damage. This would likely be a small claims matter if you take it to court, but sometimes simply getting an attorney involved will solve the problem. Of course, you should attempt to work it out with your neighbor first, but we know that doesn’t always goes as one would hope.