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More on Easements: Dominant/Servient

Does your property dominate, serve or both? The parcel that has the benefit of another parcel of land is called the “Dominant Tenement”, the one with the burden is called the “Servant Tenement”, so the owner of the Dominant Tenement is call the “Dominant Tenant” and the owner of the Servient Tenement is called the “Servient Tenant”. The term Tenement speaks to the land itself and the term Tenant speaks to the landowner.

In simpler terms this means that if you buy a piece of property and the title report shows a recorded easement then you are the Servient Tenant which must allow some other party access to use that recorded easement for the purpose identified in the title report.

A good example of a Servient/Dominant relationship would be a utility easement. You as the property owner may have a recorded easement that allows the utility companies to access certain parts of your property to install/maintain the utilities. As a landowner desiring to develop property you would most likely be required to provide an easement for the utilities in order for the development to be approved by the local authorities. Consequently; it is doubtful that any utility company would provide its services without an easement.

Can an easement ever be terminated? The answer is yes! There are two common ways to terminate or extinguish an easement. The simplest way is to Deed the property back to the owner of the land that is burdened by it. The Dominant Tenant needs to deed the property back to the Servient Tenant and then have the deed recorded. Another way is to abandon it which entails the Dominant Tenant providing evidence of the intent to relinquish the right to use the easement. Or, the Servient Tenant can try to prove abandonment which means that the Dominant Tenant has failed to occupy or use the property which could result in a loss of rights.

Real estate can be complicated along with some confusing terminology. I recommend that before making changes to your real estate holdings that you consult with a good real estate attorney adding him/her to your network of real estate professionals.

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