What is a Utility Easement?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A utility easement is an easement which gives a utility the right to use and access a specific area of a property. The area covered by the easement is usually clearly defined in the text of the easement, and the easement is attached to the property deed so that it will persist even when the property is transferred or sold. People who are researching the purchase of new property should definitely take the time to have the title researched to learn more about any outstanding easements and other things which may restrict the use and enjoyment of the property.

Easements give utility companies the right to install poles and lines on property that they do not own.
Easements give utility companies the right to install poles and lines on property that they do not own.

Utilities can request an easement for any number of reasons. A classic example of a utility easement is an easement which allows the power company to run electrical lines along a property, and to install utility poles if the property is long enough that the lines cannot pass over the property without support. The utility has the right to utilize a strip of land for the lines, and to enter the land to access the lines for maintenance and repair, which can include tree trimming, replacing rotted utility poles, and so forth.

Gas companies may seek a utility easement to run gas lines on private property.
Gas companies may seek a utility easement to run gas lines on private property.

Other utilities such as water and sewer companies, gas companies, and phone companies may request utility easements. For the utility, crossing land is often easier and cheaper than going around it, and if an easement deal can be worked out, it will save the utility money in the future. In other cases, a utility needs to cross private property to bring services to someone else, as for example when a lot is split in two and the back house needs access to water, power, gas, and so forth. Without an easement, the utility would not be able to guarantee provision of services.

With a utility easement, a company may access poles and lines for routine maintenance and repairs.
With a utility easement, a company may access poles and lines for routine maintenance and repairs.

When property is split or lot lines are readjusted, utilities may take an interest because the change may require a utility easement to address concerns about accessibility to utilities. Likewise, when land is being newly developed, easements may be put in place to accommodate the need for roads, utilities, drainage, and so forth.

A utility easement might allow a power company to install utility poles or run power lines along a property.
A utility easement might allow a power company to install utility poles or run power lines along a property.

Having an easement gives the utility the right to use the land, but the utility does not own it. However, the property owner may encounter certain restrictions on land use in an area covered by a utility easement. For example, if a power company has a utility easement, the property owner cannot plant tall trees in the area of the easement, because they could interfere with the power lines. Likewise, a swimming pool could not be dug out where there is a buried gas line.

A utility easement gives lineman access to perform  necessary repairs.
A utility easement gives lineman access to perform necessary repairs.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Is the city responsible to replace our fence they removed from my property when they put in water and sewer lines on the back of our yard?


I don't know if this discussion is still current, but a couple of weeks ago I received a letter in the mail stating the City's intention to run a new sewer line right through the middle of my front yard. They intend to take down two 50-plus year old Maple trees, which serve as a buffer between my house and the (rather busy) road that I live on, and claim the 15' between said trees (and the sewer line) and the (busy) road I live on as a "permanent utility easement," which means I can use the land, and it will still be technically part of my yard, but it will decrease my property acreage by however many square feet on the home title when I try to sell it and I will not be allowed to replant any trees of reasonable size to replace the ones they are taking down, as it might interfere with their new sewer line. I'm not sure why they had no problem with the existing sewer line and the trees that have been there since (or probably before) my house was built in 1950.

There are two things that offset the fact that I do live on a busy road and make it a still decent place to live, and why I have kept this home for 12 years now: the first is the fact that my house is set back reasonably far from said road so you can still sit on the front porch and not be right next to busy traffic; the second is that I have two big beautiful 50-plus year old trees between the house and the road that provide a buffer and shade (and it looks pretty).

The city already took 10' of easement two years ago to widen the road, which I was very agreeable about, despite a little angst about losing 10' of my nice deep front yard at that time. They tore up my yard with equipment and then replanted the part they tore up (which had been beautiful mature established nice grass) with something that quickly grew 3' tall and has the consistency of hay. Then they left these long bolsters of hay and string along the edge of where they planted - held in place by wooden horses - and just simply left them there. They never came back to retrieve those or finish the job and I finally took them down myself after a month or two - by this time those hay bolsters had killed a 2.5-3' swath of grass between the hay they planted and my pretty grass. So now I have (starting from the paved road) Hay->Bald Stripe->my original pretty grass along the front edge of my yard.

I'm ready to simply sell the house and get out of there, but I am primarily concerned about what this is going to do to the value of my home when I go to sell it. They want to do this in the spring (which is when I wanted to sell it), and they are offering me $6,000 to take half of my front yard and cut down my huge, nice trees. I doubt that $6K will compensate for the hit to "curb appeal" and loss of acreage (not to mention the fact that there will now be a permanent easement that the city owns on fully half my front yard).

Any advice on this? I'm looking for some way to calculate what the loss will be to the value of my home by having the plot re-written to whatever the new square footage is after they take their easement (it was .73 acres when I purchased/financed the house) and removing the lovely shady trees and forbidding me from replacing them (which will detract from the nice front yard I have). My house was appraised for refinancing about three years ago and appraised at over $150K, but with a bald, ugly front yard I can't imagine it will be as appealing to look at from the front - plus it will be hotter in the summertime without that shade.


I came home to find a company cut a private boundary fence to put in another pole, but put it on my property without my knowledge or consent.

I had indemnity insurance when I purchased my home and no easement is registered on my property.

Nothing can be grandfathered, according to my lawyers. All easements need to be registered. This second pole houses no wiring and I wasn't home when the company decided to put it on my property and destroy my boundary fence.

Legal action is the only solution. CCTS confirmed that I do not have an easement. Are there any other solutions?


People, go talk to a lawyer.


We are considering buying a piece of property that has an electric easement on the side of the property 12 feet down to the end of the property. We want to put a well in and it states that you can't drill within the limits of said easement. If I'm 100 feet from the easement, can I have a well drilled? Before I pay a lawyer for something I don't own yet, I would rather not pay the money for it if it is not an option.

The other thing it states is that, in the judgment of the company you would need to remove bushes, shrubs and trees endangering the construction and operation of said lines. This prevents you from doing anything. It's crazy in a way, if you can't make your back yard look nice and put a fence around it. They shouldn't have unlimited access to your land for a small easement. Do they have the right to tell you what to do with what is outside of the easement?


Can pool equipment be on an easement? I am under the impression that it can be but if the county needs to get to the easement it would be my responsibility to move it.


We wish to move our septic field under an electrical utility easement on our property which states we cannot build structures under the power line on the easement granted to them "reserving, however, unto the grantor the right to cultivate or otherwise use the said land".

Do I need the permission from the utility company to place a septic field which will be located so as to not interfere with the maintenance of the said power lines?


We have a six foot easement along our backyard fence. This was for phone, hydro and cable. In 1986 all three utilities moved their cables to the front of our property. There is nothing in the rear yard now. In 1998 we had the property surveyed and the easement was still in effect. We now want to put in an in ground pool. The city bylaws state five feet from property and not over an easement. How do remove the easement from the property?


I purchased a piece of property from the back tax sale back in 2001, and now I am ready to build a house or church on it. I found out that, because of the utility easement, I do not have enough space left to build anything on it.

I have had several meetings with the zoning committee in my city to try to find out what I could put on the property or how I could use the land. What they are telling me is the land is useless. The only thing I can do is to continue to pay the property taxes. I also tried to sell it back to the city, but they did not want it. Is there anything I can do about this problem? Please help.


I have a Bell Canada easement in my back yard, directly in the center at the rear of the yard. I noticed today that there is another huge pole lying across my backyard, to signify they are going to be replacing the existing one. I called and requested that it be moved into a corner of the yard. Can I legally demand them to do so? I am not a Bell customer, and I don't mind it being on my property, but I do not want it being the focal point of my yard either. Help.


The phone company technician told us to trim the tree around the telephone pole. Otherwise, they will trim the tree and send us the bill. Can the phone company do so? The Easement law allows the phone company to enter the land to access the lines for maintenance and repair, which can include tree trimming, and so forth. We have owned this private property for 25 years. This is the first time we got this unreasonable verbal threat. Can they do so, and what shall we do?


We bought property, built a house, and signed an easement to put power on the property. The power company is wanting to put poles on my property for a fan for a coal mine down the road.

Does the easement I signed for my residential power give them the right to put the poles in even if I don't want them to? It will take out my trees that block my property.


I have a private property and the easement has been covered with sand (Act of God). The other owner has a private property in front of my property and there is no way into my property.

They do not want to allow any other access for me to my back lot property. Is there any law covering this?


I have sewer lines running though my back yard and they are replacing the main lines. After they are done, it's my property to do with as I please, right? For instance plant trees back and so forth.


In a prescriptive easement, can the land owner stop a power company from going from a single phase to a three-phase? (Which means more ugly lines) I'm creating an off-the-grid homestead and the lines will be going over my driveway and gardens, and I feel this will devalue my property. Help. They're coming soon.


How far away does a fence have to be from a utility pole that is very close to the property line?


I lease a lot in a mobile home park, and the utility company has a transformer on my leased lot within 15 feet of my bedroom. I was told 10 years ago and two years ago it would be moved. The community also has said they would move other park components from my leased lot. I have had no response from anyone. There is no easement.

Do I have a claim for "loss of use" of my back yard and is the transformer in code violation (Palm Beach County) for being too close to my dwelling?


Can someone make you move the drains to build on it? For example, move the drains from the back to the front of the house for an extension?


No, you cannot place a swing set on an easement. We're being forced to move our kid's swing set, storage building and dog pen.


Can a big swing set put on the easement?

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