easement, in law, the right to use the land of another for a specified purpose, as distinguished from the right to possess that land. If the easement benefits the holder personally and is not associated with any land he owns, it is an easement in gross (e.g., a public utility's right to run power lines through another's property). At common law an easement in gross could not be transferred, but today it may be transferable. If the easement is held incident to ownership of some land, it is an easement appurtenant (e.g., the right to run a ditch through a neighbor's yard to drain your land). The land subject to the easement appurtenant is the servient estate, the land benefited the dominant estate. If certain conditions are met, the easement passes with the land to the new owner after the sale of either estate. An easement may be created by express agreement of the parties, in which case it must usually be in writing (see Frauds, Statute of), or it may be implied by a court from the actions of the parties in certain circumstances.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.