Uneasy about an easement? A quiet title action may help

Easements are a very common type of property encumbrance. They're commonly used, for example, to give utility companies access to power lines, pipes and similar structures.

But easements can also exist for other reasons. A shared drive might give you (or your neighbor) an easement that grants unrestricted access to the road. Your convenient location next to a park system or waterfront might give your neighbors an easement that allows them to walk through your property on the way to their favorite destination.

Typically, easements transfer right along with the deed when a property is bought or sold. Some of those old easements may even fall into disuse or become obsolete over the years -- and that can leave you with a laundry list of problems.

Take, for example, an easement that gave your neighbor the right to cross the back end of your farm in order to reach the local fishing hole. Even if that fishing hole has dried up and is long disused, the easement could prevent you from legally erecting a fence across part of your property.

A quiet title action may help. Generally speaking, quiet title actions are not adversarial processes because there's usually no reason for anybody to contest them. Instead, they're petitions to the court that ask a judge to determine your property's boundaries and your rights -- and clarify or end any problem you may have with existing easements.

Quiet title actions aren't the only way of dealing with an uncomfortable easement, of course. They're just convenient to use when there's nobody left to object to the end of the easement -- or no reason to object. If you're unsure what to do about an old easement on your property, find out what legal options apply to your situation.