Understanding the Difference Between Public and Private Easements Under US Law

When it comes to understanding the difference between public and private easements under US law, it is important to understand the purpose of each. A private easement grants specific individuals the right to use another person's land for a particular reason, while a public servitude grants this right to the general public. An example of a public easement is the right to use public roads and streets. An access easement is the right to step over someone else's property in order to access a certain area.

Other types of easements that are not accessible to the public include those that allow for the placement and operation of a mobile phone tower on someone's land, as well as private roads that provide access to land. A public right of way, while it can be described as an easement, is very different from a private easement. The Supreme Court has explained that “public roads”, as applied to land roads, are usually called “highways” or “public roads”, and are the roads that every citizen has the right to use. A private road refers to those easements in which a particular person, or a particular description or class of people, has an interest or right unlike the general public.

Sacramento real estate lawyers often face issues related to private easements such as degree of use of the easement, interference with the easement, and so on. However, public right-of-way issues rarely need to be addressed. In a recent decision, the court explained that the use of the term “for public road purposes” in granting easements between private parties does not create an easement for public use, but rather to allow access to a public road. Determining if you need a right of way or a different type of easement will depend on your situation.

Rights of way refer to travel and would be necessary if private property cuts off access to a public area. In most other circumstances, you would need a different type of easement to access. Easements or rights of way do not grant possessory powers; they only grant the right to use someone else's property for a specific purpose. Rights of way are easements that specifically grant the holder the right to travel on another person's property.

Therefore, all rights of way are easements, but not all easements are rights of way. For example, these easements allow a landlocked property to access a public road. If surrounding property changes hands, residents will continue to have access to the road. The example of allowing residents of a landlocked property to cross another property in order to access a private road would be an affirmative easement, because it allows its owner to do something. Easements out of necessity would include providing landlords with access to public roads and services if other private property cuts off access. The court concluded that when granting an easement between private parties, using the term “for public road purposes” does not create an easement for public use but rather allows access to a public road.

In addition, while the landlord whose property is subject to an easement reserves the right to use land in any way that is not incompatible with an easement, they cannot unreasonably interfere with the rights of the easement owner. When buying a property, it is advisable to check if there are any existing easements or rights of way as they can affect the value of the property. A public right of way often allows people to travel through designated parts of private property in order to access a public area, usually in order for people to have access to a road that crosses private property.