Understanding Prescriptive Easements in US Property Rights Law

When two plots of land are treated as a single extension or owned by a common owner, an implicit easement may be created. This type of easement is known as an attached easement, and it can be implied by existing use or by need. For example, if a parcel of land is sold and it deprives the other plot of access to a public road or service, an easement can be established out of necessity. This is known as a servitude.

The merger doctrine states that when the property that owns the easement (dominant property) and the property taxed by the easement (servile property) are merged into one, the easement is extinguished. If the parties involved are not willing to immediately release their rights, they can accept the release in exchange for a license. When working with utility companies, public bodies, and neighboring landlords to obtain access easements, these easements are located and have a limited reach to allow for the intended use of the property. Rights of way are easements that grant the owner the right to travel on another person's property. A prescriptive easement is a right of ownership acquired through unauthorized use of another person's real estate for a specified period of time.

If this party can demonstrate that its use met certain elements, it gives them the right to use a specific portion of the property for a specific use. This lawsuit is filed in court to determine ownership and other property rights. The owner whose property is subject to servitude retains the right to use the land in any way that is not incompatible with the easement, but they cannot unreasonably interfere with the rights of the easement owner. This fiction meant that when the property was used for a specific period of time, that use was proof that the user had once been granted a right to that use, but that the grant had been lost. In order for a party to acquire a prescriptive easement, they must demonstrate that their use met certain elements. These elements include: continuous and uninterrupted use for at least 10 years; open and notorious use; hostile or adverse use; and actual or constructive notice to the owner of the servient estate.

If these elements are met, then a court may assign part of a landlord's property rights without their consent.