We Were Unaware of an Easement on Our Property. Do We Have Any Recourse?

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‘We purchased a home in 2006 and were not told about an easement of 20 ft into the back lot due to a natural gas line. We specifically asked the listing agent, builder and developer about constructing a fence on the back lot and were told “no problem” as long as it complied with the covenants. We were given a copy of the covenants which allowed fencing. We recently went to the city to pull a permit for the fence and found out about the 20ft easement and are not able to put the fence more than 8ft from our house. When contacting the Realtor, builder and developer we were told that they were not required to disclose this because it was considered a utility easement and that we signed the plat which had a dotted line on it indicating the easement. We have since put the home up for sale and are running into trouble selling it due to this easement. What can we do? This was truly not disclosed to us and we had no idea what the dotted line meant.’

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There were all sorts of lines all over the microscopic plat that we viewed when purchasing this property. This has happened to every homeowner on our street and the street behind us and we are all fuming!’

Unfortunately, it’s not possible for me to give an exact answer, because your options will depend on the specific laws of your area and the specific facts of your situation. It’s possible that you have a claim for failure to disclose a material fact. It’s possible that the map satisfies any disclosure requirements in your area, so you’re out of luck. And it’s also possible that the facts and law aren’t clear in your case, and would only be determined after long and expensive litigation.

The first thing I would suggest is that you get an idea of how much difference this easement makes. Ask your Realtor to estimate the value of the property with and without this easement. (Or better yet, ask a
different realtor who has no interest in selling this property–you may need to pay for this service.) Once you know how much you’re talking about, you can make an informed decision whether it’s worth spending
some money consulting with a local real estate attorney to explore whether this difference in price is someone else’s fault.

This is a long shot, but another thing you might consider is contacting the owner of the easement. Twenty feet seems pretty wide fora gas line; maybe you can negotiate (read: pay) to get some of that space back.

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Author: House Attorney

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