What You Should Know About Easements in Kitsap County, WA

What You Should Know About Easements in Kitsap County, WA

Easements are a complicated bit of land use law. New landowners can get confused and upset when neighbors walk across their property, and locals can get upset when the walking paths they’ve been using for decades are suddenly off-limits. Neighbors get into disputes when utility lines enter their property, and developers pull their hair out when they find out the land they thought they had access to is actually partially owned by three different people. It’s important that you know your local easement codes and regulations before handling property or bringing up a claim.

 

What is an Easement?

Simply defined, an easement is a shared piece of land. It may be owned by one person, but the right to access it can extend to multiple people. Common easements include:

  • Driveways
  • Walking paths
  • Utility lines
  • Sidewalks

Easements oftentimes don’t have to be formally declared by their owner to be recognized by a court, as is the case with things such as sidewalks and other accepted shared spaces. 

 

Declaring an Easement

While not all easements need to be declared, most that involve private property should be. If one person sells their neighbor a piece of and for them to use a driveway it’s important for both parties to thoroughly understand and agree to the terms. When property owners make agreements without formal contracts they set themselves up for conflict down the road.

 

Terminating an Easement

Agreements don’t last forever and situations change. This is why there are processes in place to terminate easements. There are a number of valid reasons for an easement to be terminated, a few of which include:

  • Cessation of Purpose
    • Easements are commonly made when one property doesn’t have access to a necessary resource, whether that be a road or a utility. As time goes by and developments get developed, a property that was once cut off may become accessible. When this happens, the easement ceases to exist.
  • Abandonment/Release
    • Just as developments make easements obsolete, people can leave and no longer require the use of the land. If one party has no intention of ever using the easement again or willfully releases it, the easement agreement is terminated.
  • Merger
    • The most prominent aspect of an easement is that it is relating to at least two different properties or property owners. If there is a merger and suddenly the entire area, including the easement, is owned by the same property owner, the easement becomes irrelevant. You don’t need legal permission to access your own land, and so you terminate the easement.

 

Who is Responsible for Maintaining the Easement?

Determining who is responsible for keeping an easement safe and clean can be difficult for everyday property owners. Every situation is different and has its own regulations, but an oversimplified explanation would be that in most cases the easement user is like a renter and the easement owner is like the landlord. The renter ensures that the property stays clean and the landlord makes sure the property stays usable. Some conflicts arise when one or both parties believe that the easement is not being properly maintained, and it’s the responsibility of the other party to take care of it.

 

Kitsap County Easement Codes

Like most localities, Kitsap County has its own regulations and codes regarding what is necessary for an easement to be considered legitimate and recognized. To ensure your development and/or easement is fully up to code we suggest you speak to a land-use lawyer.

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