An easement or right-of-way is an agreement that confers on an individual, company or municipality the right to use a landowner’s property in some way. While these agreements grant rights, they also have the effect of partially restricting an owner’s use of the affected portions of land. For example, if you own property and a utility company has a main gas line passing under your land, it is likely that they will have a registered easement that will guarantee them access to the line and restrict uses or activities that would hamper such access or cause safety concerns.

An easement or right-of-way are very common and usually describes a particular portion of property, and although not visible on the ground, provides an area of access to the holder. Most urban and many rural properties are subject to these agreements. Although there are technical differences between the two terms, they have the same effect upon the landowners.

They are usually registered on the certificate of title to the property, remain with the land and are automatically transferred from one owner to another as the land is sold. Easements remain on the title until the holder of the easement discharges their rights from the certificate of title. 

Easement

  • Access roads
  • Pathways/walkways
  • Utilities
  • Right to park
  • Right of light
  • Right to commit nuisance

Rights of Way

  • Utility corridor
  • Power lines
  • Sewer lines/water lines
  • Gas/oil transmission lines

 

The agreement defines all the rights and obligations of the holder of the easement or right-of-way and the restrictions that are placed upon the property subject to the agreement. The holder (beneficiary or grantee) of an easement or right-of-way holds certain rights regarding usage of the property described in the agreement. The holder’s rights of use are described and restricted by the agreement. The landowner continues to own the land and has only given up defined rights on the portion of land used for the right-of-way or easement.

A blanket easement may cover an entire parcel of land – not only the specific location of a utility structure. Blanket easements were often used to provide for protection of well-site flow lines and for water and gas co-ops. A property owner should check with the holder of the easement to see if it is still required or whether it can be reduced in size.

A landowner must consent in writing before the registration of a new easement or right-of-way. If a landowner refuses to grant consent, it may still be obtained and registered if it is based upon a decision of the Surface Rights Board, expropriation, or a judge’s order if it is determined that registration would be in the greater public good. The landowner granting the easement will receive a payment ($1.00 minimum) to make the agreement legal. Any other compensation is subject to negotiation between the landowner and the company or person requesting an easement or right-of-way.

An easement or right-of-way may also be removed with the consent of the holder of the agreement or by judge’s order. An argument for removal must be based upon proof that it is no longer needed. Even though an easement is removed from the certificate of title, its boundaries remain on plans to show locations of abandoned buried facilities.

There are four ways to determine the location of an easement or right-of-way: 

1)      A survey plan may be registered at Land Titles.

2)      The easement may be described by a metes and bounds description, which describes the location of the easement in words. In addition, the metes and bounds description may be accompanied by a sketch showing the location of the easement.

3)      A landowner can consult the holder of the easement or right-of-way or,

4)      Have the boundaries identified by an Alberta Land Surveyor.

Before landowners build or apply for a development permit, it is their responsibility to check the certificate of title to the land for easements or rights-of-way and any accompanying restrictions. The holder may be able to veto future development and uses of buildings may be restricted even if they are not located on the specific land identified as the easement or right-of-way prior to any construction activity, a landowner should contact Alberta One-Call at 1-800-242-3447 or the holder in order to determine the location of underground facilities.