Post details: Working Within the Law - Part 2


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Working Within the Law - Part 2

Easements & Deed Restrictions

The presence of an easement or deed restriction may prevent the construction of an addition.

An easementAn easement is a legal interest in a parcel of land, owned by someone other than the landowner. An easement entitles the holder to a specific limited use.

Most easements are designed to provide access to services and utilities. For instance, a municipality may own a sewer easement on a portion of property for a storm or wastewater sewer. The presence of this type of easement means either that a sewer pipe is underground or that the town has the right to place a sewer there.

For the most part, easements are purchased or placed on a property and remain with the property until legally changed. These should show up on your survey plat or on your deed or tax map. It is highly unlikely that an easement can be changed to accommodate an addition, particularly if a pipe or electric lines are located underground. The homeowner does not own the rights to the land on an easement even though it is on his or her property.

Deed restrictions are conditions placed on the property by former owners that may protect specific areas of the property or may place conditions on building. Deed restrictions may be present to protect wetlands or other natural resources, or may limit the type of development or changes that can be made to a property. For example, many municipalities will place deed restrictions on houses when they are first built to protect open space from future development.

Historic SitesHistoric Sites

Federal, state, or local regulations now protect many homes or neighborhoods that have historical, cultural, or ethnic significance. For the most part, these rules are effective and have helped to preserve the character of many older urban and rural environments.

Owning a historic property can present special challenges, however. Your renovation may cost more, and the special approvals may require more patience. You will probably have to comply with ordinances that require specific materials and approval of your plans by either the municipality or a local historical commission. Fortunately, the results are often worth the added time and expense.

If your house is a historic building or is located in a historic district, talk with the appropriate local, state, or federal officials and get approval before making any exterior changes to your home. (Sometimes interior changes, such as moving walls or adding additional capacity to utilities, are regulated also; ask ahead of time just to be sure.)

Better Homes and Gardens



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