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Your rights when utilities have easements on your land

Purchasing real estate can be risky, whether it is for development or residential use. While you may test the soil and investigate the drainage, you may not always know what you are getting, and problems that arise after you begin construction can be devastating to your project.

Your property may have one factor that may raise concerns, and that is the existence of an easement. There are numerous kinds of easements, some of which restrict what you can do with the property. However, a utility easement includes the probability of workers needing to use your property for repair and maintenance. The question you may have is whether it is worth it to purchase a property with a utility easement.

Structures on your property

An easement may allow the utility company to erect a structure on your land, such as a pole or transmission tower. These may already exist when you purchase the property, but if they do not, you would be wise to learn whether the utility company has plans to erect such a structure in the future.

Meanwhile, the easement will likely restrict you from building on the area designated for the utility. While you are the owner of the property, the utility company has the right to access the area as needed, and your structure cannot interfere with that right. You are still responsible for maintaining the portion of the property where the easement exists, including paying appropriate property taxes.

Underground utilities

While an existing pole or tower on your property may be unsightly, a utility easement may include lines or pipes running underground, such as water, sewer, gas, electricity or cable TV. This often keeps utility costs down since it is cheaper to run lines straight through than to navigate them around private property.

If the utility companies need to access underground lines, they may have to dig up your property. This may include driving heavy machinery over your land and excavating to reach the lines. Your easement may prevent you from installing certain plants, like trees, near the utility lines, but you may also have the right to receive compensation for any damage resulting from underground utility work on your property.

Protecting your rights

One element that may cause you to shy away from land with a utility easement, even if the owner offers the land at a reasonable price, is whether you are purchasing property that the utility company has free reign to do whatever they want. While the utility does have certain rights to the easement property, you also have rights as the owner.

You may find that the property is worth purchasing if you can ensure that the utility companies work within their limited rights. Seeking advice from an attorney with experience in Massachusetts easement laws is a wise first step.

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