An important part of buying most homes is investigating potential problems and hazards associated with the house and property. An easement on your prospective home requires thorough investigation before signing a sale agreement. An easement allows other people the right to use your land for specific purposes, including drainage. Drainage easements set aside land to carry water collected from neighborhood streets and land parcels through a complex drainage network, thereby protecting homes and businesses from water damage. Preliminary title property reports and property deeds help you investigate a property, and cities and counties also keep public information on easements for research.
An easement allows utility companies or government agencies the right to use the area on your official land parcel. This prevents you from using the easement land for any permanent buildings or driveways. Most easement laws also prevent you from placing temporary structures on the drainage easement, including swing sets or lawn furniture. You pay taxes on the land used for the easement, and you also must keep the land maintained, including making sure the easement retains the same slope for drainage. In addition, you must keep the land free of debris.
Drainage issues in your prospective new home's neighborhood should be investigated in detail. Municipalities develop complex drainage systems to avoid flooding. A drainage easement on your new home parcel uses your land to direct water away from your street. The pipes or land may move the excess water collected from your entire neighborhood through the land easement area. Homes located in the hills, and properties situated on drainage channels or near lakes or rivers, frequently allow drainage easements. Land easements also give towns and county departments the space to place underground pipes to take rainwater away from the neighborhood and into the sewer system or a body of water.
A drainage system protects the streets and neighborhood homes from flooding dangers. It also reduces damage from standing water from rain or melting snow. Some drainage systems remove water by allowing it to flow over the land, without the use of any pipes.
Homeowner insurance premiums on your new house might increase as a result of a drainage easement on the land title. Prior drainage damage at your potential home also makes it difficult to find a company to insure your home from future damage. Insurance companies have access to information on every home to help assess future risk and determine policy pricing. Contact several companies to determine if the drainage easement poses a problem for coverage before signing your closing paperwork for escrow. Mortgage lenders refuse to fund loans for homes without homeowner's insurance. Your lender may also require flood insurance as part of your home purchase on a property with drainage easements.
If your new house lists only easement rights, this allows the possibility for the government or a utility to use your property for future drainage. You can hire an inspection company to examine current drains, but future work means a huge unknown for your new house. The risk from the easement includes future damage to your driveway or landscaping from pipe or slope work, or even unintentional damage to your home's foundation when excavating for drainage pipes or creating the drainage slope. Mortgage lenders might balk at approving a loan for a home with a large drainage easement on the property, fearing potential damage to the house located on the land.
- FindLaw: Easement
- Fairfax County, Virginia: Storm Drainage Easements
- Shelby County Tennessee: Frequently Asked Questions -- County Engineer
- This Old House: Common Ground
- FEMA: Draining Improvements
- Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration: Homeowners Insurance
Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.