Simply put, an easement is an interest in real estate that gives one person the right to use another’s land for a specified purpose. The focus is on use rather than ownership and an easement does not displace the general possession of the land owner, but instead entitles the holder of the easement to occupy the burdened property only to the extent necessary to fully enjoy the rights conferred by the easement.
Easements must be distinguished from the very close non-real estate counterpart, licenses, which also involve the use of one person’s land by another for a specified purpose. The license grants permission to do something on the land of the owner (Licensor) without granting any permanent interest in the realty. Licenses are revocable at the will of Licensor. An easement constitutes an interest in real estate, but a License does not.
An Easement may be created either by grant or another conveyance or by operation of law.
There are a number of ways to terminate Easements. An Easement may be terminated (i) according to its own terms, or (ii) an agreement, or (iii) a release may be executed between the owners of the dominant and servient estates. A complete merger of the fee title to the dominant and servient estates also terminates an easement. Although an easement may be abandoned, it is difficult to establish the abandonment of an easement created other than by prescription without a clear manifestation of intent. To prove the abandonment of an easement, both intent to relinquish property and external acts putting the intent into effect must be shown. An easement may be lost if it is granted for a particular purpose and that purpose ceases or is abandoned, however, it does not follow from mere nonuse that the purpose for which the easement was created no longer exists. Abandonment must be evidenced by an intent to relinquish property and acts that put the intention into effect. Mere nonuse will not extinguish the easement unless accompanied by an intention on the part of the dominant owner to abandon it.
The extent to which an easement burdens a servient tenement is determined, to a large degree, by the words the parties used to create the easement.
An easement may not be improved by the owner of the dominant estate, except as may be necessary to the owner’s actual use and enjoyment of it, since such improvement could unreasonably increase the burden of the servient tenement.