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Understanding Road & Utility Easements

Understanding Road and Utility Easements

Good morning. I wanted to talk about easements for road and utility purposes when you’re buying land in order to build.

Road Easements

The first step is to order a preliminary title report when you have a piece of land in escrow under contract. A couple weeks ago we reviewed “Plotting the Easements”, so you have a colored key on the parcel map, which helps identify where these easements are located on the property.

One of the easements to look at is the road and utility easement. These are two different easements. If the property does not border a public street, meaning you must cross someone else’s property to get to your lot, you must make sure that you have legal access to do so with a vehicle, by foot, or any other method. So, look at that plotted easement from the title company and make sure it has an easement for ingress and an easement egress. That will give you legal access to get to your property.

Utility Easements

The other important easement is the utility easement. You may have an actual road easement, but frequently these easements were written a long time ago and they may not specifically mention SDG&E, or it may not be a blanket utility easement. The easements could have been written for another separate utility company, which does not necessarily give the current utility companies the appropriate access to take their services to your property.

Let’s say, as an example, you have a road easement and you have ingress and egress access, you may not have the actual right to take power down that easement. If not, the property that you have to cross must give permission for you to do so. Checking with the utility companies is vital for confirming that the easement on the title report will in fact permit the utility company to cross the other property.

Keep in mind that the utilities don’t necessarily have to go down the road easement. The utilities may access your property from a different angle than the road easement. Utilities often enter properties from different locations, sometimes from the front, the back, the side, or from any combination of those locations. The easement, however, must exist to get the utilities to your site. You may have great access to enter and exit your property, but without the utility easement, you can’t get power, water, or any other utility onto property unless you get an easement from the owner, which is not guaranteed.

If for any reason an easement does not exist, be sure to get those in place before closing escrow. Make those easements a contingency to your agreement as well. During the inspection period, discuss with the seller that easements must be in place. Additionally, any costs to put the easements in place need to be negotiated if they don’t exist. The buyer may have to pay for this, or the seller may have to, either way, make sure the utility, ingress, and egress easements are agreed upon prior to closing on the land.

I hope this helps. If you need more information on buying land, you can go to our website at www.freemansconstruction.com. We released a brand new “How to Buy Land Guide.” It has a ton of resources in it, excellent video information, and the guide should be very helpful. It has a checklist of everything we do when we’re buying land which can provide some great help if you want to buy land. Thanks for your time and have a great rest of your day. 

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