When dealing with real estate, it’s essential to understand the various legal rights and restrictions that can affect a property. Covenants, easements, and property encumbrances are terms that every property owner or buyer should be familiar with. In this blog, we’ll dive into what these terms mean, how to identify them, and where to find the information you need.

Easements and encumbrances on a property are legal rights or restrictions that can affect its use, ownership, and value. Here’s a more detailed explanation of each term and how to find them:

Covenants: Covenants are agreements or restrictions placed on a property’s use or maintenance. They can be imposed by previous owners, homeowners’ associations, or local regulations. Here’s what you should know:

Covenants come in various forms, each designed to regulate specific aspects of property use and appearance. Here are some common types:

Architectural Covenants: These covenants dictate the architectural style, design, and aesthetic features of buildings on the property. They are often found in planned communities and upscale neighborhoods to maintain a consistent appearance.

Land Use Covenants: Land use covenants specify how the land can be used. They may address issues like whether the land can be developed for commercial purposes or must remain solely for residential use.

Maintenance Covenants: Maintenance covenants outline the responsibilities of property owners regarding the upkeep and care of their properties. This may include rules about landscaping, property maintenance, and more.

To find information about covenants affecting a specific property, it’s essential to consult various sources:

Property Deeds: Property deeds often contain information about any covenants attached to the property. Reviewing the deed is a fundamental step when assessing potential covenants.

Homeowners’ Association (HOA) Documents: If the property is part of a homeowners’ association, their governing documents, such as bylaws and declarations, will specify the covenants in place. HOAs typically have the authority to enforce and modify covenants.

Local Zoning Regulations: Local zoning ordinances and regulations may include covenants related to land use and property development. Zoning codes are publicly available and can be reviewed at your local municipal office or online.

Easements: Easements grant someone the legal right to use or access a specific part of a property for a particular purpose. Common types include utility easements and right-of-way easements.

Easements can vary widely, and understanding the different types is essential since they have implications on how a property can be used. Here are some common types:

Utility Easements: Utility companies often hold easements that allow them to access the property for maintenance, installation, or repair of utility services such as water, electricity, gas, and telecommunications. These easements ensure the uninterrupted provision of essential services.

Right-of-Way Easements: Right-of-way easements provide the legal right for individuals or entities to pass through a portion of the property to access another location. For instance, your property may have a right-of-way easement that grants your neighbor access to their land via your driveway.

Driveway Easements: A driveway easement allows someone to use a portion of your property for their driveway. This is common in situations where a property is landlocked, and the only feasible access point is through another property.

Conservation Easements: Conservation easements are designed to protect the environment and preserve natural habitats. Property owners voluntarily restrict certain uses of their land, such as limiting development or protecting wildlife habitats, in exchange for tax benefits.

To find information about easements on a property, you need to consult specific resources and professionals. Here’s where to look:

Property Surveys: Property surveys often include details about the location and dimensions of easements on the property. Survey documents should be in the possession of the property owner or can be obtained from surveying professionals.

Title Reports: Title reports, obtained through a title company or legal professionals, provide information about any recorded easements on the property. They offer a comprehensive overview of the property’s legal status.

Legal Consultations: If you have questions or concerns about easements on your property, consider consulting with a real estate attorney or a title company specializing in property research. Legal professionals can conduct a thorough title search and explain the implications of existing easements.

Encumbrances: Property encumbrances encompass a range of claims, restrictions, or liabilities that affect a property’s title, use, or value. These can include liens, easements, or covenants.

Property encumbrances can be varied, each carrying its own set of implications for property owners. Some of the most common encumbrances include:

Liens: A lien is a claim against the property that serves as collateral to secure debt payment. Liens can be imposed for various reasons, including unpaid property taxes, mortgages, unpaid contractors, or judgments in legal disputes.

Taxes: Property taxes are essential for funding local government services. However, unpaid property taxes can result in liens on the property and potential foreclosure if not addressed promptly.

Covenants: As mentioned earlier, covenants can also be considered encumbrances, as they impose specific restrictions on property use and maintenance. Covenants often arise in planned communities and neighborhoods with homeowners’ associations.

Easements: Easements, although granting certain rights, can also be considered encumbrances because they restrict the full use of the property. Depending on the type and terms of the easement, it may limit what the property owner can do with their land.

Discovering property encumbrances is a critical step when buying or managing real estate. Here’s how to locate encumbrances and assess their impact:

Title Reports: Conducting a thorough title search is essential when purchasing property. A title report will uncover any liens, unpaid taxes, and other encumbrances that may affect the property’s title.

Property Surveys: Property surveys can reveal any easements that encumber the property, providing information about their location and scope.

Legal Professionals: Real estate attorneys and title companies specialize in researching property encumbrances. They can provide detailed title searches and help you understand the implications of any encumbrances on the property.

Locating Information on Your Property:

Locating detailed information about your property is a crucial step in effective property management and decision-making. Whether you’re a prospective buyer or an existing property owner, understanding the property’s history and potential encumbrances is essential. Here’s how to find this vital information:

Title Companies: Title companies specialize in conducting title searches. They have access to databases, land records, and other resources to provide a comprehensive report on the property’s title history.

Legal Professionals: Real estate attorneys often conduct title searches on behalf of their clients. They can interpret the findings and advise on how any discovered encumbrances might impact the property’s value and use.

Online Databases: Some jurisdictions have made property records available online. You can search by the property’s address or parcel number to access information about the property’s title and any recorded encumbrances. Note that the availability of online records may vary by location.

Land Registry Offices: Visit your local land registry office or county clerk’s office. These agencies maintain property records, including deeds, surveys, and historical documents. You can access these records in person or sometimes online, depending on your location.

Zoning Regulations: Review local zoning ordinances and regulations. These documents detail the property’s zoning classification and any associated restrictions. They are typically accessible at your local municipal office or on the municipality’s website.

Property Tax Records: Property tax records, which include assessment values and payment history, can be obtained from the local tax assessor’s office or their online portal. Property tax records can reveal any outstanding tax obligations associated with the property.

Understanding covenants, easements, and property encumbrances is essential for any property owner or prospective buyer. By knowing where to find this information, you can make informed decisions when purchasing or managing real estate. Don’t hesitate to consult with professionals, such as real estate attorneys and title companies, for a thorough assessment of your property’s legal landscape.