Understanding Tennessee Utility Easement Laws

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By Rochford Law Posted on August 11, 2020 at 4:07 PM

Purchasing real estate is exciting, particularly if it’s your first time. Renting means you need to adhere to someone else’s rules and now you are able to use your property however you like (while adhering to local codes and laws, of course).

However, there are circumstances that result in others having claim to use your property in certain ways, despite the fact that they make no claims to ownership.

One of the most common versions of this concept is known as utility easements. The power lines that connect our houses and the pipes that run our water to public facilities need to run above and beneath our homes in order to complete their intended tasks.

This can lead to city workers performing work on privately-owned property.

Understanding Tennessee utility easement laws makes this practice much more familiar and saves you the stress of not knowing your rights.

With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about utility easements in Tennessee before reaching out to a real estate attorney.

What Are Easements?

Essentially, an easement is a claim to use a piece of someone else’s property for a particular purpose. These agreements are often stipulated by contracts that carry over when the property is sold to a new owner.

There are occasional circumstances in which easements are created without a contract. An easement based on prior use can be established if a piece of land has been used to perform a necessary function for an extended period of time.

For instance, a person’s driveway might veer into their neighbor’s property. A new homeowner can raise an issue with this but an easement may be established since the driveway has already been in use.

Another circumstance in which an easement could be created without a contract is if a property becomes cut off from public roadways by surrounding property development. This turns the formation of an easement into a necessity.

However, utility easements will always be the result of a written contract.

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Types of Easements

These examples of easements created without an express contract are what’s known as implied easements. Necessity and prior use are both reasons a court will create an easement to a person who is not the property owner.

Express easements are created by a contract. The agreement is put in writing and can be referred to should any disagreements arise. It is put in the deed of both properties once it is finalized. The length of the easement can be negotiated. It is frequently a permanent aspect of the property deeds, however this is not required.

Private easements refer to agreements between two individuals, commonly neighbors. Common scenarios involve driveways, fences, agreements for farming and cutting timber, and so on.

Public easements are put in place for the benefit of the general public. Utility easements are included in this classification, although it also includes items such as sidewalks, public parks, and roadways. Utility companies will use properties to connect sewer lines, power lines, general maintenance of public property, and any other service that benefits the general public.

How Utility Easements Affect Your Property

Utilities connect neighbors and neighborhoods to essential services like power, water, and sewage lines. The agreements that create these easements are generally included in the deed of the property. Most of these easements already exist and simply need to be tolerated by the property owners.

Tennessee utility easement laws don’t open the utility companies to use the property in any way they like. However, they can stipulate how the area in which they work can be developed. For instance, a property might have restrictions as to where trees can be planted to avoid damaging the utility line.

Utility companies may also trim trees to access public items such as power lines.

New utility easements can be created if a local utility service needs to introduce new lines. It is rare, however, for multiple utility easements to be included on a single property.

Can I End a Utility Easement?

There are a few ways Tennessee utility easement laws allow these agreements to come to an end.

First, the utility company can abandon the easement themselves. This could be due to a utility line falling out of use or any other reason they decide another location is better your property.

A utility easement contract can also include an expiration date. Passing this date without renewing the easement will bring it to an end.

The utility company will occasionally purchase a property in which an easement exists, effectively ending the easement.

Gross misuse of the easement can also justify a property owner to end the contract. This will require the help of a real estate attorney.

Do You Have Questions About Utility Work on Your Property?

Tennessee utility easement laws can be confusing and have a large impact on your enjoyment of your property. Any questions can be addressed with the help of an experienced real estate attorney. Rochford Law & Real Estate Title has served the Nashville area since 1997. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.

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Topics: Nashville Real Estate, Nashville Real Estate Attorney, Real Estate Law, Residential Real Estate Law