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Your rights if there is a utility easement on your property

As a Massachusetts property owner, you want to be able to use your property as you see fit. Even if you own land, it is possible that a utility easement could impact what you do with your property, what structures you can build and much more. If you learn there is an easement on your property, you would be wise to learn more about what this means for you.

An easement simply gives another person or party access to certain parts of your land for a specific purpose. In cases involving utility easements, a utility company or other appropriate parties could walk onto your land to for installation, repairs and other reasons. There are limits to what easements allows, and you will find it helpful to learn how to protect your property rights.

When land use and zoning laws conflict

Local governments rely on the practice of zoning when they plan their urban areas. Without zoning laws, a town might be a mishmash of commercial, industrial and residential areas, causing traffic congestion, inconvenience and possible health hazards. However, zoning is far from an exact science, and sometimes landowners have a good reason to seek to free their property from a zoning law.

This situation often comes up where a nonconforming use predated a zoning law. For example, a commercial building might have existed in the same spot for 70 years when a new law zones the area only for residential use. In this case, the local zoning board may deem the commercial building to be a lawful nonconforming use. However, even in this case, the zoning board would investigate what kind of effect the commercial building has on area residents.

Zoning board to hold off on changes until 2020

The city council has been toying around with a major overhaul of Boston's zoning laws in recent years. The current land use and zoning law has been in place for the city for the last three decades or so, so it's only natural that the policies would be outdated in comparison to today's world. However, the mayor has put the brakes on that project, and instead is projecting completion in 2020. Recent drafts and discussions about the zoning laws have seen support, but also criticism from the public.

The city already has two large-scale development projects on its hands currently. The mayor referred to those projects in the press release, also hinting at the fact that the zoning changed will require more time and discussion to be fully ready for approval. Several neighborhoods in Boston are seeing revitalization. However, some who live there allege the area will become too big and overpopulated; thus lose its neighborhood charm, among other complaints.

About express and implied easements

In a busy and crowded place like Boston, space is at a premium. It's places like this where express and implied easements are more common. This is because, with space at a in such high demand, there are more 'common' spaces. Implied and express easements are often in place in situations in which many people are seeking access to a place, and space is limited. So how do you know if the property is subject to an express or implied easement?

In layman terms, an express or implied easement arises in a situation when a property owner's land is needed to access other property, whether public or private. For example, an alleyway owned by the property owner could be subject to an implied easement if it is needed to access a nearby parking garage. Express easements are put into writing, while implied easements are assumed even when no document proving the easement has been put into place.

What title issues could cause land use setbacks?

As you and many others in Massachusetts know, buying any type of real estate is a major risk. If you want to develop a piece of property or plan to use it as commercial space, you do not want to wind up facing unnecessary title issues.

Unfortunately, title issues are not uncommon, and if you do not do your part in ensuring that you have a clean title, you may face unnecessary setbacks and considerable damages to your project or business. Fortunately, a title search can often help uncover potential problems and possibly allow you to avoid a detrimental real estate purchase.

Be aware of Boston's commercial zoning laws

There is a lot of excitement when thinking about opening a new area of your business, relocating or starting a business from scratch. Every business has different needs, but most all will require some sort of space, commercial real estate, in which to conduct business operations. Commercial real estate is different from residential real estate in many ways. Depending the complexities of the business or industry one is in, there could be regulations that can affect the business further.

That's why selecting a space for commercial real estate, one needs to consider all the ways the business could be affected by that location. For example, land use and zoning is a priority that should be considered before even looking at a property. If a space is commercially zoned that's a great start. However, depending on your business operations, it may not be enough to sustain operations.

Is your neighbor entitled to a prescriptive easement from you?

Do you know where your property begins and ends? If you own a significant amount of land, you may not know, and your neighbor may not either. For one reason or another, you decided to find out exactly where the boundary between properties lies.

When you did, you discovered that your neighbor is encroaching on your property and probably has for years. Whether your neighbor built a structure such as a fence, barn, garage or something else, it lies partly or wholly on your property.

Family donates 60 wooded acres via easement

There can be many ways to honor your loved one after they pass away. Depending on the interests of the person and what was important to them, many like to donate to a certain cause. For one a Massachusetts family, a recent report noted that they agreed that nothing was more important to their passed loved one than a 60-acre parcel of wooded nature. In her honor, it's been donated by means of an easement.

The main goal of the land donation was to ensure that the land is never built on, say for a commercial housing development, for example. According to the family, the land was the spot for their family cabin, and was purchased by earlier generations in the 1920's for the purpose of enjoying nature and getting away from the city. The easement ensures that they and any future owners with be prohibited from developing the land.

Boundary disputes could be a threat to your property rights

As a Massachusetts property owner, you take threats to your ownership rights very seriously. When there is an issue that affects how you use your property, your plans for your property or your enjoyment of what you own, you have the right to seek an effective and timely resolution to these concerns. This is especially true in situations involving a boundary line dispute.

Boundary line disputes typically occur when you and your neighbor cannot seem to agree on where the line is that separates the two properties. These disputes can quickly escalate, and it can become much more than just an inconvenience for you. It may be beneficial for you to learn more about possible options for resolving these types of issues.

How do commercial leases differ from residential leases?

Whether your business is brand new, several decades old or somewhere in-between, a commercial space in which to conduct business can be a game-changer for the business. Whether this is your first time experiencing a commercial lease or you've gone through the process before, there are a few things to know. Commercial leases aren't identical to residential leasing in the process, so don't expect it to be.

While similar goals may apply to leasing residential and commercial space, there are things to consider that are pertinent to the success of a business. Zoning is a big part of that. If the property in question doesn't have the correct zoning permits and real estate permits for business operations, it's something that will need to be obtaining or the space will need to be passed on entirely. Also, cost per square foot is important to making sure a business can afford the space.

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  • Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys
  • ABA | Defending Liberty Pursuing Justice
  • American Association of Justice
  • REBA | The Real Estate Bar Association
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