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Professionally Speaking June 2017 – Strang Patteson Renning Lewis & Lacy

Easements – The Gifts that Keep on Giving

by Ann Patteson of  Strang, Patteson, Renning, Lewis & Lacy, s.c.  844.833.0830

An easement can last many years, perhaps forever. Unlike sales and purchases of real estate or leases, most people are not as familiar with the concept of easements. Landowners may be caught unaware by the typically permanent nature of an easement because there does not seem to be any issues with the current usage of the property or the purpose of the easement. Also, there is no such thing as a “standard form” despite the fact that many utility companies and others claim that they are only requesting that a standard form be signed.

Some utility easements will permit the holder of the easement to assign it to other utility companies. Expressly limiting the type of usage requires the landowner’s consent before a new type of utility usage commences. Some easements may also give the holder of the easement unfettered access to all of the other portions of the landowner’s land for construction or maintenance purposes. A good practice is to specifically define the boundaries of the additional area required for construction or other work.

Landowners also need to be concerned about specific obligations being created by the easement. Some easements drafted by utility companies require the landowner to maintain a certain elevation of the ground, which not only may result in costs being incurred to maintain the ground at such a level, but liability for failure to meet such an obligation.

One way to address the unknown future is to include a provision permitting the landowner to relocate the easement at the landowner’s expense, so long as the easement holder shall have substantially the same benefit from the easement as from the prior location. Another way would be to limit the life of the easement, although it may be unrealistic to expect a utility company to be able to do so. However, it may be reasonable to seek a time limit on the use of a parking lot or private drive.

It is important to review and negotiate the terms of the easement before signing a “standard form,” which could affect you or your business decades from now.

For advice and counsel concerning easements or other real estate matters, contact Ann Patteson at (844) 833-0830 or

Ann Patteson is a founding shareholder with Strang, Patteson, Renning, Lewis & Lacy, s.c. in Green Bay and Oshkosh. This article is intended to provide information only, not legal advice. For advice regarding a particular real estate matter, please contact the attorneys at Strang, Patteson, Renning, Lewis & Lacy, s.c.