Owning a property gives you certain rights, including the right to decide who gets to use your land and for what.
Before you purchase real estate, you should understand the difference between an easement and an encroachment. The latter is a violation of your rights, while the former is an exception to them.
What is an easement?
According to SF Gate, an easement is a right that others have to use property belonging to you. For example, if your property blocks someone else’s and the only way the owner has to get to his or her property is by going over yours, an easement grants him or her that right.
You may grant someone else an easement to put part of your property to a specific use, but sometimes the choice is out of your hands. For example, utility companies generally have an easement to go to your backyard and read your meters.
What is an encroachment?
An encroachment occurs when someone else makes use of your property without your permission and without an easement. Sometimes this is unintentional; your neighbor may have accidentally built a structure that goes over the property line, in which case, having the land surveyed to re-establish the boundary may end the dispute. In other cases, the encroachment is deliberate.
If there is an encroachment on your property, you generally have the right to remove it. However, existing easements typically carry over when the property changes hands. For this reason, it is important to inspect the documents prior to purchasing property to see if there are any easements on it.