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A dominant tenement is a real estate parcel which benefits from an easement on an adjoining property. For example, in a situation where the residents of a property access a public road by using a drive which crosses a neighboring property, their property is the dominant tenement, because they are the beneficiaries of the easement which is designed to ensure that their parcel is accessible. People may also use terms like “dominant parcel” and “dominant estate” to refer to dominant tenements.
In land law, easements are permanently attached to pieces of real property and they vary in nature. The land which is obliged to provide the easement is known as the servient tenement, estate, or parcel. Dominant tenements may take advantage of things like utility easements, public access easements, and so forth. Without the easement, the functionality of the dominant tenement might be radically altered, perhaps most markedly in cases where properties do not have a way to access a public road.
Although the dominant tenement enjoys the right to use the easement, it does not enjoy the right to use the rest of the servient tenement. In the example of a property with a road easement, for example, people cannot drive off road on the property, because the easement applies only to the established road. Certain rules about the maintenance of the easement also apply, along with common sense good behavior to maintain friendly relationships with people in the community; while access to an easement is guaranteed by right, bad blood between neighbors can result in messy situations.
When people buy real estate with easements attached to it, the real estate agent should disclose this. If an easement is attached to a property, making it a servient tenement, the real estate agent can provide information about the nature of the easement and when it was established. If a dominant tenement has the right to use an easement on another property, information should be provided about this as well. Sometimes information about easements is buried or hard to find, and it is advisable to read carefully through the results of title searches and other investigations into a property.
Easements may be created when property is established, as for example when a parcel is split into two smaller lots and one lot is designated the dominant tenement because otherwise it will not be able to connect to utilities. Easements can also be created as land uses change and evolve. Sometimes easements arise by custom; if people become accustomed to using a property in a particular way and the land owner does not object, this can be used as grounds for an argument to create a legal easement.