Easements on Lakefront Property


 You woke up one morning with your hot cup of coffee, grabbed the newspaper, and sat down by the window with the most spectacular view of the lake. As you sat back to relax and take a sip of your favorite French brew, low and behold, trespassers carrying fishing poles and pulling a canoe walk through your lot and head straight for the water. Surprise! You have an easement going through your property for the property owner across the street, and they have guests almost every weekend that love to use the lake.

You may think this sort of thing doesn't happen, but it does. In lake communities, it's just not that uncommon for non lakefront property owners to have lake access rights to use the real property of a lakefront property owner without actually possessing any lakefront. Easements along lakes were created decades ago to provide pathways across lakefront property allowing adjacent property owners or the public to gain access to lakes that have limited to little public access locations like piers, boat launches, and parks. An easement is a legal property right that is recorded with a county or other form of local government. The type of easement we are referring to here is called a right-a-way easement. It is what it sounds like. It gives people a right to make way over a piece of land. So, if you own lakefront property, you may have a right-a-way going through your lot to get to the lake.
This form of easement is for transportation purposes only. If you have an easement going through your lakefront property, those taking advantage of utilizing the easement must only use this easement to get to and from the lake. They can't hang out with their lawn chairs and have a cookout. They can't break out the baseball gloves and toss the ball around. They can only go to and from the lake. Another name for this is an affirmative easement, basically stating that someone or anyone has the right to use your property for a specific purpose such as getting to a pier, gaining access to a buoyed boat, etc. These easements may be public or private. I've seen both circumstances and have come across situations where lakefront property owners did not know about either type of easement until after the transaction.  The easement may be a floating easement which means there is no distinct line going through your property. The people gaining access to the lake can randomly cross over wherever.

It's incredibly important to work with a local title company or check with the county or neighbors before you buy lakefront property. You need to know if there is a possible easement before you write an offer. Don't take it for granted that information will be handed over to you. You must do your homework before you make such an investment.