Walkway along a roadThis is the next post in a series of articles about understanding real property easements in Tacoma or Olympia, Washington. This article will discuss the various ways an easement may be created. Easements may impact residential property or commercial property and can create complications for owners or reduce property values. Given the complicated legal issues involved in establishing, enforcing or challenging an easement, it is recommended that you consult an Olympia real estate attorney to assist you. If you need assistance, contact my office today to speak with a lawyer.

Express Easements may be created in Washington by the agreement of the parties

An easement may be expressly agreed to by the parties. In many cases, one party requests the easement and, if agreed to, the affected property owners enter an easement agreement. The agreement is then recorded in the property records of the county, referencing the property deed and other relevant records. In other cases, such as utility easements, the company may assert an easement under the theory of eminent domain to benefit the public. For example, the power company may require an easement across multiple landowners’ properties for installing, maintaining and repairing power lines. In some cases, owners may receive “just compensation” for any losses suffered on their properties as a result of the easement. These easements are also recorded in property records. Finally, the second type of easement – implied easements – can be established through litigation, resulting in either a settlement or a judgment from the court recognizing them as restricting the property. These are also found in the title record of the property and become express easements. Purchasers of real estate may find references to easements when conducting a title search and should review these documents closely to understand how the property may be impacted.

Implied easements may be created by necessity or prior actions by of Olympia or Tacoma property owners

Easements may also be created through implication, by an established course of dealing between adjoining owners or by necessity. These easements are not discoverable just by looking at the recorded documents and title of the properties because they arise from what is actually happening on the ground rather than from any property documents. For example, if a landowner’s property is landlocked and the owner cannot access a public road without crossing an adjoining owner’s property, this may create an easement by necessity. In other cases, an easement may be created by a party openly using a portion of another person’s property for a specified purpose over the objection of the owner of the property for an extended period of time (10 years in Washington). These types of easements are not usually memorialized in the property records and often come as a surprise to a property owner. Implied easements often become contentious and are often challenged or enforced through the litigation process. Each dispute is highly fact specific and can involve significant research, property record searches and complex discovery. In these circumstances, a real estate attorney can assist you in understanding your rights and obligations and navigating the legal process.

If you need assistance with an easement related matter, contact my firm today to speak to an Olympia real property lawyer. The firm also services the Thurston County cities of Lacey, Tumwater, and Yelm, the Pierce County cities of Tacoma, Puyallup, and Lakewood, the Lewis County cities of Centralia, and Chehalis, the King County cities of Seattle, Auburn, Bellevue, Burien, and Federal Way, as well as other areas in Washington, including Grays Harbor, Mason, Cowlitz, and Pacific Counties.

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