What is the Difference Between an Easement and a License Under US Law?

An easement is an interest in land that generally lasts indefinitely, but can be limited to a specific period of time or until a future event occurs. It conveys a right to use another person's land for a specific purpose, such as a walkway or path. An easement is both a burden and a benefit for the owner, as it affects the value of individual properties. On the other hand, a license provides permission for someone to use the land and does not convey an interest in the land, only granting permission for its use.

It can be revoked at any time and is usually expressed in writing or orally. A license also arises when a person acquires the right to take possession of property under the law of another person. Easements can be created by express concession or reservation, by necessity, by prescription (adverse use), by the CC&R, or other means. They are usually express, but may be implied by previous usage, custom, or the relationship between the parties. Servitude rights are permanent and go with the land regardless of ownership changes.

The main difference between an easement and a license is that an easement conveys an interest in land that lasts indefinitely or for a specific period of time, while a license is a permit to use land that can be revoked at any time. Often, easements are “attached” to a property and are transferred with it at the time of its transfer.