What’s the Difference Between a Right-of-Way and an Easement?

If you’re a land owner, you need to know the difference between a right-of-way and an easement. They both create a right in somebody else’s property.

I’m not an attorney, but in layman’s terms here’s how I’d describe an easement and right-of-way.

An easement is a form of right-of-way and it provides perpetual access to your property. An easement runs with the land and, once made a matter of record, will show up as part of your property on a title report. An easement is a type of right-of-way.

On the other hand, a right-of-way can be created as a temporary or periodic type of access created by a license to pass or some other form of permission. A right-of-way may not provide all the legal rights that you need to perform some activities and may not be as valuable as an easement. Unfortunately, an easement may also come with qualifications.

That’s why access issues are very complex and if you have any question about the legality of access to your land, you should consult with an attorney and get your rights clarified and recorded.

When rights are not clearly documented, your behavior and the behavior of past owners may be an important contributing factor to your ability to access your land, so learn how to behave and protect your rights.

Unfortunately for many, establishing and documenting rights in a complex legal case can be cost prohibitive. If an owner cannot afford to defend a legal right, it’s almost as bad as not having it at all.

3 thoughts on “What’s the Difference Between a Right-of-Way and an Easement?

  1. Hi, always very interesting posts so thanks. Do you know of any online resources/sites to determine if there is an easement in place? I’ve seen a few but they aren’t the greatest. Thanks!
    BH

  2. I doubt that online research will produce useful information unless a significant court case has resulted in legal briefs that have been published. Title work is usually the best bet.

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