Most properties in North Carolina have at least one type of easement. An easement is the right to use land for a special purpose, such as running underground wires or supporting a townhouse.
Express easements are legal agreements between two parties that grants one special access rights. An example is giving a neighbor the right to ingress and egress a particular path to access their own property. You need to have the agreement in writing for it to hold up legally.
Express easements stay in effect even when there is a new owner of the land that benefits from special access. If you want to know whether any express easements affect real estate that you’re considering buying, you can check the county recorder’s office.
Implied by necessity
When there is only one access route to someone’s property, there is an implied by necessity easement. You cannot take the right away from another because they need to be able to access their property. They must only use the path to ingress and egress; they don’t gain rights to your full property. If people must cross over part of your property to reach a public road, then their right to do so is also an implied by necessity easement.
Easement by prescription
This type of easement surprises many people when they learn about it. Another person could gain legal access to your property if they regularly trespass on it without you taking action to stop them. In North Carolina, it takes 20 years of uninterrupted, frequent trespassing on your property for someone to acquire easement by prescription. The time period is lower in some other states.
Whether you own just one home or multiple, it’s important for you to understand North Carolina’s easement laws. You must know when someone has a legal right because of necessity to your property, and you must stop others from trespassing so that they don’t acquire an easement by prescription.