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Easement & Boundary Attorneys in Lafayette, Louisiana
Fortunately, in modern times feuds between neighbors rarely, if ever, descend into armed conflict, but disputes over property lines and property usage are still quite common.
When you buy a piece of property, your first instinct is to consider the fences to define the boundaries of your land, but a fence or other structure does not necessarily adhere to what’s on the record books in the parish where you live. What’s more important is, even if your boundaries are clearly marked, others may have rights to your property for various purposes under what are called easements in the common law.
Utility companies, for instance, may have rights to cables or pipes running under your land. If you live on the street and there are homes above you whose owners need to cross over your property to reach that street, then there is an easement for them to do so.
Easements – or servitudes as they are called in Louisiana, following Napoleonic Law – are often spelled out in your deed when your purchase the property, but sometimes they simply exist through historical usage and no one has questioned them or seen a need to put them into writing. This type of easement can lead to disputes between neighbors.
If you’re thinking of buying a home or property, or in the process of sealing a deal, in Lafayette, Louisiana, contact our property law attorneys at LeJeune & Associates, to search the title, examine the purchase agreement, and other papers you will be asked to sign to close the transaction. You must ensure that the property you’re buying is free of encumbrances and that its boundaries and easements are clearly stated.
Our trusted legal team at LeJeune & Associates, also proudly serves clients in Iberia, St. Martin, Jefferson Davis, St. Landry, and Acadia, Louisiana.
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What Is an Easement?
In general, there are four types of easements – utility easements (mentioned above), private easements, easements by necessity (the common roadway), and prescriptive easements.
A utility easement is the most common type and doesn’t affect your home or property ownership. You can plant trees, build on the land and treat everything as if it’s your own so long as you don’t block the utility company’s access, which may even be clearly spelled out in your deed or by warnings posted on the property itself – “do not dig here,” etc.
A private easement is one that is granted from one owner to another. The access path to the public thoroughfare could be one example, though that also could be an easement by necessity. Sewage pipes are another such easement. Perhaps the neighbor above or next to you needs to connect their sewer system to the main system by running their pipes through your property.
The original owners may have forged a private easement to allow this. If so, it hopefully will be included in the deed or title to the property.
An easement by necessity is recognized by law when one or more property owners have no other way to do something essential without crossing over your property. This is certainly the case when the only way to get to the street is by traversing your land. If you own the land fronting the street, you cannot block access to those who must cross your property to access the street. They have a legal right to do so.
A prescriptive easement is one that is recognized by the mere fact of its existence and its continued use. It could be a path across your property that others use to get to a park or lake.
Prescriptive easements fall into the category of “predial servitudes” under Article 654 of the Louisiana Code. Article 740 of the Code further declares that such servitudes, or easements, may be acquired through ownership of the land, through a decree by the owner of the land, or through “acquisitive prescription.”
Acquisitive prescription means that someone takes over the property for their purpose. If they do so continuously for ten years, they have acquired a prescriptive easement and the right to use the land as they have been. This is similar to the legal concept of adverse possession.
Common Boundary Disputes
Though easements should be spelled out or readily apparent when you purchase your property, boundary disputes can still arise, often over fences or trees that hang over a boundary onto another's land.
Just because a fence runs a certain way or seems to clearly demarcate property lines does not mean it adheres to the legal boundaries. Most fence disputes, however, arise over whose responsibility it is to repair or replace an existing fence or to build a new one.
Article 685 of the Louisiana Code maintains that fences are common property unless there is proof or agreement to the contrary. This means that the owners who share the fence also share responsibility for its maintenance. Costs should be equally divided for normal wear and tear, and decisions regarding the construction of a new fence or upgrades to an existing fence should be jointly made.
Trees can become an issue if a neighbor’s tree grows branches over the property line and into your property or if its roots extend onto your property. Louisiana Code 688 allows you to take action if the tree’s roots or branches interfere with the “enjoyment” of your property, to wit: “A landowner has the right to demand that the branches or roots of a neighbor’s trees, bushes, or plants, that extend over into his property be trimmed at the expense of the neighbor.”
Easement & Boundary Attorneys Serving Lafayette, Louisiana
If you are looking to purchase property in Lafayette, Louisiana, or you are in the process of purchasing property, contact our reliable attorneys at LeJeune & Associates, to ensure there are no hidden easements, and to clarify any existing easements. If you’ve already purchased property, and a boundary or easement dispute erupts, you can rely on our knowledge, experience, and resources as well. Contact our team today to learn more.