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Working with Easements in the Construction Industry: A Guide to Minimizing Liabilities

Oct 20, 2023 | Blog

Navigating the construction industry often involves more than just technical expertise; it’s also about understanding the legalities that come with it. One such legal consideration is working with easements. If you’ve been given permission to cross over someone else’s land for construction work, there are certain steps you need to take to protect yourself from liabilities. Let’s delve into what you need to know about easements and how to avoid potential pitfalls.

Understanding Easements

Firstly, it’s essential to grasp what an easement is. Simply put, an easement gives someone the right to use another person’s land for a particular purpose. For construction professionals, this usually means the right to access and use a piece of land to complete a project. However, having an easement doesn’t mean you own the land or can use it however you wish.

Steps to Minimize Liability When Working with Easements

Document Everything: Before starting any work, ensure you have written documentation that grants you the right to access the land. This could be in the form of a deed, a written agreement, or an official easement document. This documentation should clearly define:

  • The purpose of the easement.
  • The exact location and dimensions of the easement.
  • Any restrictions or limitations.

Seek Legal Counsel: Even with a clear easement document, it’s a wise move to consult with a legal professional. They can help you understand the scope and limitations of your rights and offer guidance on any local laws or regulations you should be aware of.

Inspect the Area: Before commencing any construction work, conduct a thorough inspection of the easement area. Document its current condition with photos or videos. This way, if any claims arise about damages, you have evidence of the land’s condition before your involvement.

Limit Your Activity: Stick to the scope of your easement rights. If the easement only allows for you to cross the land, for example, then you shouldn’t store construction equipment or materials there. Always respect the boundaries laid out in the easement documentation.

Maintain Open Communication: Keep an open line of communication with the landowner. Notify them of your construction schedule, any changes, or potential disruptions. Being transparent can prevent misunderstandings and foster goodwill.

Secure Insurance: Before starting any work, ensure you have adequate insurance coverage. This should cover potential damages or accidents that could occur on the easement property. While you might take every precaution, accidents can still happen, and insurance can shield you from significant financial losses.

Use Signage and Barriers: Clearly mark the construction area to keep unauthorized individuals out and prevent accidental damage. Barriers can protect the rest of the property from any accidental spills, debris, or other potential hazards related to your work.

Quickly Address Any Damages: If any damages occur, even if they’re minor, address them immediately. Inform the landowner, and take steps to repair or compensate for the damages. Quick and proactive actions can prevent larger legal disputes down the road.

Contractual Considerations

In addition to the above steps, it’s crucial to have a well-drafted contract in place when working with easements. This contract should:

  • Clearly define the scope of the work to be done.
  • Outline responsibilities for any potential damages.
  • Stipulate dispute resolution mechanisms.
  • Highlight the terms for any compensation if required.
  • Describe the duration and termination conditions of the easement.

In Conclusion

Working with easements is a common occurrence in the construction industry, but it’s vital to approach them with due diligence and respect for the landowner’s rights. By following the guidelines above, you can ensure that your projects run smoothly and avoid unwanted legal entanglements. Remember, it’s not just about building structures; it’s also about building trust and maintaining good professional relationships.