Easements are not always that easy

Easements are an area of property law that a few people, outside of real property lawyers, really understand. But if you own a business, the scope of the easements that are attached to your property are often essential to your ability to operate your business and care should be taken to consider their potential effects.

An easement is a right to use the land of another for a “nonpossessory” purpose. With an easement, you do not possess the land, but may travel over the property to another adjacent property. They may also be granted to an entity like a public utility to run a pipeline, power or phone lines and the like.

A case in Dorchester demonstrates the issues that can develop around the operation of an easement. An Asian grocery store had taken over from a previous store. They were having financial difficulty, and decided to sublease the space to another retail store.

However, access to their property was via an easement. The easement contained restrictions as to the type of business that could operate on the property. The owner of that property refused to permit the sublease.

When they became clear that they could not reach an agreement, the owners of the Asian grocery attempted to proceed with the sublease on their own. The property dispute became ugly, with the holder of the easement placing concrete barriers on the road to stop all access to the site.

The grocery store owner tried to sue to have the barriers removed, but lost twice in court.

This eventually led to the sale of their interest in the grocery store property and the lease from the previous store in a $12 million deal.

Property law can be technical and formalities can be very important. If you have questions concerning an easement or how to obtain an easement, you should consult a real property attorney before you become drawn into an expensive legal dispute.

bizjournals.com, “With $12 million land sale, a hardball dispute in Dorchester appears to end,” Eric Convey, November 3, 2014