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Unlike Diamonds, Easements Are Not Always Forever

October 22, 2019

By: Brian J. Pfeil

Easements are extremely common in our everyday life and serve an important role in offering access to otherwise inaccessible tracks of land due to boundary lines.  Strip malls, shopping centers, multi-use buildings and other businesses often share parking lot space through an exchange of easements.  Many of us access retail shops, vacation property or hunting land through a common private driveway that is often the subject of one or more easements.

If you are relying on an easement across another person’s land for the benefit of your land, and that easement was created before July 1, 1980, your easement might not be enforceable unless you take some proactive steps to make it enforceable. 

Many property owners and tenants do not realize that easement rights do not last forever.  Under Wisconsin law, an easement can only be enforced against a purchaser for value if the easement is referenced in a document that has been recorded with the Register of Deeds within the last 40 years.  So, if your easement is more than 40 years old, you absolutely need to verify whether it is still enforceable.

The good news is that the enforceability of an easement can be extended in many situations, even if it is more than 40 years old.  By recording a document with the Register of Deeds office in the county where your property is located that specifically identifies your easement, you might be able to extend or renew the enforceability of your easement for an additional 40 years.

If you are dependent upon an easement for your business, house, or vacation property, it is imperative that you determine if your easement is still enforceable. Davis|Kuelthau’s real estate attorneys can assist you in this analysis and provide the necessary advice and assistance to secure continued access to your property.

For more information on this article, please contact your Davis|Kuelthau attorney, the author linked above or the related practice group co-chairs linked here.