Should I Purchase a Property That May Have Easement Issues With Neighbors and Gas Company?

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“I have a contract to buy a piece of property. It is to close (for the 4th time) next week. During the survey, it was determined that a portion of the driveway is on “the brothers” (referred to as 2B’s from here on) land next door. As it turns out while trying to negotiate this encroachment with the 2B’s, that a reasonable sum of money could not be reached to settle the issue. So it looked like (because it had been used for 50+ years without permission; the 2B’s thought a large vegetative buffer running the entire length of the left side of the property actually belonged to my property built in 1937; no one ever knew where the actual surveyed boundary was it seems until I had it surveyed) this hurdle would never get crossed and would end up in court getting a perscriptive easement (since everyone thought it was part of my property all these years anyway). To add to the confusion, down the entire left side of this property (where the vegetative buffer and my driveway is) is a gas pipeline easement that was created before the current owners (the 2B’s) bought the land next door (bought in the mid 60’s). Today I met with the gas company, and as we all found out, their easement runs all the way over to the property corner at the front left corner. As you go down the left side toward the rear of the property, their easement actually moves onto my property by some 20′ or more. But the catch here with the gas company (who has no pipe on my land yet) is that they never purchased any easement from the long-time previous owner, so there is no recorded easement on my property (but by measuring, it comes over onto my land). So since there is already an easement in the area where my driveway encroaches on the 2B’s land, is it necessary for me to even care about what the 2B’s might want or do? can I not get a right of use from the easement holder and continue as if nothing has ever happened? Or do I still have to deal with the 2B’s in some way? And does the gas company have any rights to my land even though there is no pipe on it, a large (90′ pines with other tall vegetation under them) vegetative buffer barring the use of it, and no recorded easement (there is one on the 2B’s land and the previous owner was compensated for it; the 2B’s purchased their land with the easement already there)? I am scheduled to close next week (again) and am still not sure that I am protected in any way. I can’t get title insurance because of the encroachment of the driveway, so does any of it really matter? I’m in NC where a perscriptive easement is gained in 7 years; it’s been more than 50 that this has been going on (for the driveway and the gas easement). Thanks.”

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Well, if I understand you correctly, the gas company has an easement for their gas pipe over the neighbor’s property. This wouldn’t help you at all, unfortunately. An easement for one purpose (gas pipe) doesn’t extend to an unrelated purpose (driveway), and usually can’t be transferred to another person, anyway.

The gas company’s easement over your property is a bit more difficult to determine. Generally, one can’t give away rights in property one does not own, so if it is true that the owners of your property never granted this easement, the gas company may not have anything. However, a) it’s possible that there is something hidden in the chain of title that you missed, or b) because it is a gas company, there may have been some government action which did effectively grant the easement. So just off the top of my head, there are at least two possible ways that this is not certain.

Bottom line, if you aren’t comfortable with the possibility of having a gas pipe put in, and possible extended litigation with the neighbors, you might want to think twice about closing this deal. Of course, you shouldn’t take any action to back out without considering the cost of doing that. Best of luck.

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Author: House Attorney

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