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Understanding General Utility Easement

Ask the Real Estate Lawyer: Real Estate Law Q&A

REM # LAW 768

By Ilyce R. Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin

Summary: A ThinkGlink reader recently bought a home and is having a problem with her neighbors and a utility easement that runs through her property. Ilyce and Sam explain how to research the origin of the easement and how utility easements are treated.

Q: We recently purchased a new home. At the closing, we were told that there were no easements on the property. After moving in and checking out the property lines we found two poles that support the electrical lines are indeed in our yard.
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After speaking to our neighbor she informed us that the easement is on the deed to her property. That would make the strip of yard in question hers. She is trying to sell her home and she includes this strip in her description of the yard.

I have spoken to everyone at the electric company, the company that handled the closing and the title search, and local city offices. No one feels it is with the scope of their office to do anything about it.

The easement was granted in 1953. The neighbors moved into their house in 1968. Can you tell me what I need to do to get this information corrected on my deed so she can stop telling prospective buyers that this area (which is 10’x365’) are a part of her property?

A: If you obtained title insurance to your home, you should check the policy to see if the easement is listed as an exception to the title to your home. If it is listed, the easement is part of your property and your neighbor has the continued use of that easement as it was originally granted.

If the title company missed the easement, you may have a title insurance claim against the title company. What value that claim may have is debatable, but you may wish to consult with a real estate attorney who has filed previous suits against title companies for title insurance claims.

But before you go on the warpath, you should get a copy of the easement grant. You should be able to get a copy of the document from the recorder of deeds in the county in which you live or from the title company.

If it’s a general utility easement, that type of utility easement generally specifies that the utility company has the right to use a certain portion of your line for certain specific uses. In some cases it will say that they have an easement over the rear 10 feet of your property to install utility poles to transmit electrical power.

If the easement if of this kind, your neighbor has no right to use your property. The electric company has the right to use your property to install utility poles and transmit electricity.

You will need to do some digging, but you will probably find out that the 10 foot easement your neighbor claims isn’t hers to claim. Furthermore, you probably can fence off your property including the easement area and you won’t feel impacted by the easement other than by having the utility poles and wires at the rear end of your property.

Once you gather all your information, sit down with a real estate attorney to discuss your case and figure out how to proceed.

Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Ilyce R. Glink’s latest book is 50 Simple Steps You Can Take To Sell Your Home Faster and For More Money In Any Market. If you have questions for them, write: Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, IL 60022 or contact them through Ilyce’s website




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