A Homebuyers Guide to Easements & Boundaries

October 19, 2021
man drawing out plans

Easements and boundaries can either hurt or harm your property. So it’s important for homebuyers to understand them. Perhaps you’ve found your dream home but there’s an easement on the property. Don’t assume it’s a bad thing—it can also be good or mean little to you in the long run. 

So let’s get into what easements and boundaries are exactly and what you should know before buying a new home.

Dig Deeper: While this article provides a comprehensive overview, if you’re keen on a detailed exploration of Adverse Possession, our top-tier hub article dives even deeper.

What are property easements?

Put simply, an easement is when a person or organisation has the right to use someone’s land. Might sound strange at first, but imagine if your property sits on land that is needed to access an electrical pole.

Or perhaps a railroad track needs to be built across your land. These are a couple of prime examples of easements.

Expand Your Knowledge: The intricacies of property locations are vast. For insights specifically about electrical infrastructure, see our guide on buying a house near power lines in Australia.

What are boundaries in property?

Boundaries are a little different. Also known as property lines, they are dividing lines limiting one area from another. You may not see the physical boundary, but they should be respected in order to maintain a good relationship with your neighbours. The whole point is to establish fairness for all parties.

Check your local council to find out their regional definition of boundaries. They will specify what you can and cannot do around the boundary line. Here are a few examples of common boundary regulations:

  • If you build a garage or an outdoor structure, it might have to be at a certain distance from the boundary line.
  • Retaining walls (or structures used to support soil on a slope) can only be built on the boundary line if agreed upon by both neighbours. 
  • A boundary fence will be paid for by both neighbours.

For most residences, the property line will separate them from the other private properties on the three sides. And the fourth will be the front-facing public boundary. The latter is typically enforced to make sure the house doesn’t encroach on public property. Houses must be a predetermined distance from the pavement. Your driveway also can’t impede traffic. 

What you should know about easements and boundaries when buying a property

older neighbourly lady standing by fence

Ask if the property has easements. From a legal standpoint, sellers should tell you if easements exist on the property once the sales contract is being put together. So you should know about it before you seriously consider buying the home. 

What rights do I have when it comes to easements and boundaries?

If you’re choosing to purchase a house with an easement, you will most probably need to comply with the regulations that come with it. Unlike boundaries, which exist on almost all properties, easements are more rare. They are also almost always enforced from absolute necessity. 

For instance, let’s say you own a beachfront property on a public beach. If the only way neighbours can get access is through a path on your property, then legally, you have to allow it. In the same way, a utility company needing to get to a pipeline under your house won’t give you the option of saying no. There’s just very little you can do. 

Everything else that comes with owning a property is the same. Just that you can’t prohibit access to that element. 

pathway leading to beach fremantle

What if my dream home has an easement on someone else’s property?

We once heard a story about a couple finding their absolute dream home. This house ticked all the boxes except it had a very narrow driveway. But they discovered that the property had an easement allowing them to use a bit of their neighbour’s driveway area. So this allowed them those few extra metres to get in and out of the car comfortably. 

If you encounter a situation like this, just make sure the easement continues with the purchase of the property. And remember to stay friendly with your neighbours!

Can easements impact my renovations?

Yes, they can. If you’re adding or renovating your house, make sure to do your research first. Look over your documentation, including the deed, to find out if there’s an easement you don’t know about. 

Situations exist where a neighbour might get an easement that protects the view of a park. This means you wouldn’t be allowed to build a structure or plant a tree that blocks that view.

Can easements be argued?

big car parked in driveway

Yes, they can. But if you challenge an easement, you’ll have to take it to court during your home buying process. That might be complicated, and after all that time and money, there’s still no guarantee you’ll win. 

However, if the holder of the easement allows for the termination, that will make it easier for you. 

If you’re bothered by an easement on your property, see if there’s an expiration date stated in the sale contract. It might not be long before it ends. 

What is compulsory acquisition?

Compulsory acquisition, also known as eminent domain, is the power of a government to acquire private rights in land for a public purpose, without the willing consent of its owner or occupant. In short, it’s when the government buys you out of your land or house.

And remember…

Before you invest in that house, check the sales contract and with the local council if easements are set on the land. If you’re not sure about the boundaries of your property, get in touch with a surveyor. This way, you’re well informed before making any big decisions.

If you haven’t found your dream home yet, we can also help you out in that department. Browse our search page to check out some amazing listings available right now. But don’t just stop there, download our app to get the full Soho experience. Just remember to shortlist or swipe left on our listings so we can send you others that better match what you’re looking for.

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Our AI match engine will match you with over 150,000+ properties and you can swipe away or shortlist easily. Making your home buying journey faster and easier.