What is a Utility Easement?

Utility-easementsEven though you own the property on which your home rests, the utility companies in the area might have the right to use parts of it. When you purchased your home might be a utility easement on the property.

This is the case for many properties that are connected to a city power grid, sewer or water system.

What Are Utility Easements

Utility easements are areas of a property that were defined for use by utility companies when the property was first put on a plat. They are designated for overhead electric, telephone and television lines and underground electric, water, sewer, telephone, and cable lines.

While it is rare to have multiple utility easements on a property, water lines and electrical lines do, in some cases, run along different easements.

Why Do Utility Easements Exist?

Utility easements exist for the good of the community. It is much cheaper and more efficient to run utility lines in straight lines through neighborhoods than it is to run them around individual parcels of land.

Easements allow utility companies to keep costs down by significantly reducing the amount of raw materials needed to provide service to the community. With fewer feet of line to maintain, maintenance costs are also significantly lower.

Do Easements Effect Property Use?

Utility EasementsUtility easements don’t mean that utility companies can do whatever they want, it just means that they have the right to use the area in a way that is advantageous to the community as a whole.

This means they do have the right to put up utility poles or put in underground lines. But an easement also means that there are certain things that you, as the property owner, cannot do to your own property.

If an easement allows for utility lines to be put across the front of your yard, you may not be allowed to plant tall growing trees in the easement area because of the interference they may cause. If there are already trees there, the utility company can trim them in any fashion they need to make sure the utility lines are not compromised. Similarly, if there are underground lines running through an easement you wouldn’t be able to put in an in-ground pool.

Key Takeaways

  • Utility easements are areas of land that are privately owned but can be used by utility companies for utility poles or underground lines.
  • Easements exist to keep utility costs down for all members of the community.
  • Easements may result in you not being able to plant certain trees or build certain amenities on specified areas of your property.

21 thoughts on “What is a Utility Easement?

  1. Avatar
    Christina Saucier Reply

    I really need some advice. My in laws own a acre of property. On the front right property and up the whole left side of the property is a utility easement. The front easement has not been used since purchase of property 30+ years ago. The easement up the left side of the property is and always has been a 15 foot ditch for rain flow. Adjacent to the left side of the property was all wooden and undeveloped. It has now all been cleared for new subdivision. The city of Biloxi Mississippi contracted out the project and gave permission to use from utility easement to lay sewer and water. My dispute with whole issue is now they are trying to turn easement into a access road to new subdivision. This easement is not a right away, only utility. Also the city of Biloxi Mississippi moved the public power pole off the easement and replaced it with a new pole on to now property property. About 2 feet of the easement. Documentation the city and contactors summited for federal approval has no mention of putting utilities on our easement. It was supposed to be connected to the east side of the new subdivision. We are located in West. We were never notified of the project and the need for our easement until work was already started. It has been 1 year with little help from professionals. Seeking advice.

    • Adam Hoffman
      Adam Hoffman Post authorReply

      Christina,
      This is more a legal question so I would advise to find a good local real estate attorney and he or she can advise.
      They may request you do a survey to clarify the matter.
      Thanks

  2. Avatar
    Christina Saucier Reply

    Thank you! Do you suggest a real estate/land attorney or just do civil attorney? The damages have already been done.

    • Adam Hoffman
      Adam Hoffman Post authorReply

      I think I would start with the civil attorney NF he needs help on the real estate side I’m sure he has resources as well

    • Adam Hoffman
      Adam Hoffman Post authorReply

      It really depends on the language in the easement deed. So I would check with a real estate attorney in Michigan.

  3. Avatar
    Vivian Reply

    Thanks Adam. In 1971 there was an Easement given to the County Works. We bought our home in 1987, but the County Works failed to record this Easement for 22 years, so it was NOT recorded/disclosed when purchased our home in 1987. Then, in 1994 the Easement was sold/transferred to the City, but we were never notified. We just found out this Easement existed this August 2019 after the City did construction on it and built off the allege Easement. The City damaged our land, killing trees, dumped sewer waste, dumped debris (all on video), as well as, blocking us access to our lot by putting up a guardrail. We are extremely frustrated and want to know if this alleged Easement is even legal.

  4. Avatar
    Austin Saunders Reply

    It’s cool that utility easements help make their installation cheaper since they can run in straight lines. My brother has been telling me about how he wants to get some plumbing run to his new home soon. I’ll share this information with him so that he can look into his options for professionals who can help him with this.

  5. Avatar
    Louisa Gerlach Reply

    Can a utility company coming into a gated townhome community and put poles in a yard and severe parts of your fence to do it without prior notice?

    • Adam Hoffman
      Adam Hoffman Post authorReply

      It depends on your state laws and the easement language. I suggest hiring a competent attorney in your area.

    • Adam Hoffman
      Adam Hoffman Post authorReply

      It would depend on the easement language. More a legal questions than a survey question.
      Thanks

    • Adam Hoffman
      Adam Hoffman Post authorReply

      It really varies on the law and state regulations. If your in CT call me, if not find a good local surveyor or attorney to help you.
      Thanks

  6. Avatar
    David Reply

    We have a large property in the San Bernardino mountains of unincorporated San Bernardino County, California. The planning 40 years ago was poorly done, and the new single family residence we are building is 400 feet away from the water connection designated for the property, this even though the build site is just 70 feet from a main street with its own water line. The issue is that the most efficient way to get water service is to run a 400 foot pipe along the P.U.E. that is currently unused. My question is, is it generally acceptable to run my pipe along the P.U.E. on our property? I’ve done my best to look this up on the county website, but have yet to find anything useful.

    • Adam Hoffman
      Adam Hoffman Post authorReply

      I’m not sure what PUE stands for but I think you should ask a local surveyor or attorney this questions.
      Thanks

  7. Avatar
    Jack Reply

    Q: I own my property. Home built 100 years ago. Title states “Easement Not Set Out For Utility”. Edison has a power pole on my property, but no easement agreement I know of. They now want to cut down 2 of my trees. I think it’s time for them to reroute their power lines. Am I legally correct in assuming so? Note: Street improvements, widening, sidewalks, etc… have all been done on my street, except for in front of my home because city doesn’t want to pay me for the land.

  8. Avatar
    Amanda Reply

    So I am curious about a situation that I have. I am in the process of completing new construction of a house. The house is a little bit further back on the property then the house that was originally there and demolished. Electric company had to add a new pole In order to service the house with electric. The well to the house was already installed underground prior to electric company coming to put in their pole. The electric company pretty much put the electric Pole right next to the well. This also has me concerned not only because of damage that could have happened to the well that is brand new. But also the chemicals that could possibly seep into the water that will be fed to the house from the chemicals off of the utility Pole.

  9. Avatar
    Mike Reply

    I am looking to buy a 10 acre rural property that is on a nice slope with great views. Unfortunately there is a utility easement for a water main running through the property. And what I’d like to do is build the house down lower, and at the top of the property — and above the water main — I’d put a 10,000 gallon water storage tank and solar panels. (I need the water storage to fight the inevitable fires in this area, and the water from the main is taken by firefighters.) Then I would need to have water and power lines *cross over* the water main/easement. Is that allowed? I could have the pipes/wires with quick-disconnects that run into a shed that straddles the easement — so I could very quickly disconnect stuff and remove the shed if they need to service the water main. What do you think?

  10. Avatar
    MIchael Jake Reply

    HI ADAM HOFFMAN, Thanks for helping us in easement issues.
    Have a question, and I am trying to buy a new home from a builder with 16K SQFT land and there is a storm management easement line going in the ground passing through whole left side of the home. The home is yet to build. The easement is probably 12-13 feet from the wall of my home. DO you see any issues with this easement to structure of my home on a long run? Please advice. Thanks.

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