“My neighbor has asked me to grant her an unrecorded easement that would provide emergency egress from her back yard, through my back yard, to the street. My neighbor intends to establish a residential day care service, but needs the emergency egress to comply with local fire ordinances.
It seems that I would be giving up substantial property rights were I to grant the easement, and that the unrecorded quality of the easement seems sneaky. What should I watch out for?”
Well, the property rights you would be giving up depend on the nature and location of the easement. For an ingress/egress easement, usually what you are giving up is anything which would block access across the easement (for example, putting a building there). Depending on your local zoning and building rules, this also might impact on your ability to build elsewhere on the property–many places have maximum ratios of floor space to land area, and may count the easement area against that. You should check with the appropriate building or planning department to see if this will affect you.
I agree it is odd that she is asking for the easement to be unrecorded. If she needs this for government approval, I would think that they would demand that it be recorded. I would prefer to have it recorded, if I were you, if only so it is clear to anyone who might buy your property that it has an easement across it.
Finally, it is entirely up to you whether you grant this easement or not. Just because your neighbor needs one doesn’t mean you are required to grant it. Usually, this sort of easement is something that is paid for, though the exact value will vary widely depending on how much of a benefit it is to her, and how much of a burden it is to you.