Easements are useful in a wide range of scenarios, from granting access to utility easements and allowing others to access public land to preserving historically important property. However, easements don’t always last forever. At some point, it outlives its usefulness, decreases an owner’s property value, or simply is no longer relevant. When that happens, there are different ways you may be able to terminate the easement.
Easements in Gross
If your property has an easement in gross, that easement is only available to one individual or party. The easement is created with that person in mind, and it is tied to the party, not the property. This means that it does terminate once the property is sold, transferred, or gifted to someone else. This allows you to terminate the easement without further intervention.
Note, though, that there may be an expectation that an easement in gross will transfer to an easement appurtenant. If the other property owner wants it to transfer—perhaps because it will make it easier to sell the home or because they want their children to enjoy the benefits of it when they inherit the home—that’s something you will need to discuss.
It’s not quite as easy if your property has an easement appurtenant. This type of easement is tied to the land, not whichever party owns the land. Whenever property is sold or transferred, the easement stays with it. If you want to terminate it, you will need to explore other options to do so. In some cases, a quiet title—described below—is an option.
However, if there are people actively benefiting from and using the easement, you may need to negotiate a release agreement. When this happens, the owner of the dominant property—the person who benefits from the easement—signs over their rights to it. As you may expect, people don’t often sign away their rights without good reason to do so. You may need to sweeten the deal by buying them out of it. Plan on negotiating a fair price and know how much you’re willing to spend to terminate an easement.
Preservation easements are significantly more complicated than many other types of easements. Consider, for example, those that are owned by the . They have an in-depth process for terminating an easement.
They have easements that exist to provide agricultural products, limit urban expansion, limit urban deterioration, and protect open-space land. With these goals in mind, those with easements on their property have to go through a lot to terminate them.
For easements approved for purchase before October 1, 2004, it may be reviewed for termination 25 years after its purchase. The termination must be approved both by the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation and the county’s governing body. The Foundation will generally only terminate an easement if future profitable farming is unfeasible. Either the Foundation or the county’s governing body can deny a termination request.
In some situations, easements are old and have fallen out of use over time. Quieting the title may get rid of the easement and give you back full ownership over your property. One example in which this may work involves an easement that allowed neighboring property owners to cross over a property to access a well. The well has long been destroyed and out of use, but the easement still exists on the title. By quieting the title, the landowner can clear the title of the neighbor’s right of way.
Taking the Proper Steps to Terminate an Easement
Whether you plan on terminating an easement via a release agreement, a quiet title action, or by petitioning the agency that owns a preservation easement, it’s important to look into your legal options before jumping into anything. For example, in some cases, an easement cannot be terminated—a utility easement can typically not be terminated unless the company no longer has a need for it.
Talking to a real estate attorney may be your next step if you’re ready to say goodbye to an easement on your property.