Easement in Gross: Definition

Updated February 20, 2024
9 min read
Easement in Gross: Definition

An easement refers to a portion of land that a non-owner, such as a government, can use without possessing the ownership. On the other hand, an "easement in gross" grants a specific individual the right to access another person's land legally for as long as the legal owner remains in control or resides on the property.

Once the owner vacates or transfers ownership, the easement becomes void. Property ownership grants individuals the right to permit others to use it as they deem suitable. However, an easement in the gross agreement is typically limited to a single property.

What Does an Easement in Gross Permit?

An easement confers certain entitlements and privileges to non-owners. For instance, water and electric companies often utilize easements to access the cables and pipes necessary for their services. Consequently, this restricts the property owner's actions concerning the portion under the easement.

An easement could prevent a property owner from constructing specific structures on that land and might even restrict other permanent structures that could interfere with the utility company's accessibility needs.

The Functioning of an Easement in Gross

Rights bound to an easement in gross are non-transferable. The easement in gross is terminated when the landowner sells, wills, or reassigns the property to another individual. This non-transferable characteristic of the contract helps to safeguard the property's value from depreciation. Although the new owner may attempt to secure an easement, the granting of these rights is never assured.

Given that the easement in gross contract primarily deals with individuals rather than the property, it doesn't impact the property's standing. Also, the individuals granted usage permissions needn't reside near or own the property. The permissions granted under the gross contract easements can have broad or specific permissions, with the property owner generally maintaining the most control.

Examples of Easement in Gross

An easement in gross confers a limited right to use another’s real property. You can better understand your easement rights by speaking with an easement attorney.

Land access easements

Homeowners may have easements in gross with their neighbors, allowing them to use a path or laneway through their neighbor’s property to reach their properties. If a homeowner sells the property, the easement rights cannot be automatically transferred to the new owner.

Use of land

An easement in gross, for instance, can allow the owner’s friend to fish on the owner’s pond until either the friend dies or the owner sells the real estate.

For example, an easement in gross, akin to a lease agreement, can allow the owner’s friend to fish on the owner’s pond until either the friend passes away or the owner sells the real estate.

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Utility easements

The most common types of easements in the United States are those granted to utility companies. Utility easements allow a company to provide utility services to parts of a property or to maintain the equipment that supplies those services.

A utility company may establish a gross easement to lay pipes over a property. The non-possessional right enables a utility company, for example, to operate and maintain lines or pipes. This includes cable television, natural gas, electric, and telephone services to install and maintain equipment for the homeowner’s and the neighborhood’s benefit.

Pipeline easements

Easements for pipelines are also regarded as common easements in gross. These easements allow entities such as pipeline service companies access to buried sewer or water pipes and to service or renovate them. 

Land conservation

Land conservation easements are also common easements in gross. A conservation easement prevents an owner from taking actions that will adversely affect the land’s conservation, like removing minerals or cutting down trees.

An easement in gross provides non-owners with selective rights to use another's property. These rights can range from facilitating utility services to promoting land conservation. Given the intricacies of such agreements, it's vital to consult with an easement attorney to understand and navigate these rights and obligations fully.

Who Benefits from an Easement in Gross?

Easement in gross benefits an individual or a company rather than another parcel of land. This arrangement provides utility companies, for instance, the necessary access to efficiently deliver their services, such as running electricity lines or water pipes through the property.

Hence, public utility services often employ these types of easements. This arrangement allows them to maintain infrastructure, prevent disruptions, and deliver steadfast service to their clientele.

Legally Recording Easements in Gross

Since easements in gross don't represent property ownership rights, neither the landowner nor the easement holder is legally obligated to record them with any agency. However, maintaining a record of such easements is still advisable to protect both parties' interests.

Avoiding Disputes: The Best Approach

Easement disputes can be side-stepped by drafting easement agreements with the assistance of an easement attorney, where a written contract would detail the easement's purpose and duration. When crafted correctly, this agreement encompasses all foreseeable contingencies and clearly outlines the rights and responsibilities of both parties, reducing ambiguities that could lead to conflict.

Moreover, with this detailed, legally binding document, the landowner and the easement holder are more likely to understand their respective roles within the agreement. Regular consultation with the easement attorney, even during the contract's term, can also prove beneficial in ensuring the easement agreement remains suitably adapted over time as circumstances change.

Easement in Gross Rights

The easement holder can exercise the rights granted under the easement in gross if it doesn't unduly disrupt the property owner. However, the land or property owner still has the right to utilize their property without impeding the easement holder's access. If it's determined in court that the easement holder has inflicted an unreasonable burden due to the extent of use, the property owner may seek legal redress.

This could involve the easement holder scaling back their access, paying damages for any harm caused, or terminating the easement in gross agreement. Similarly, if easement holders find their rights obstructed, they can petition the courts for compensation or removal of the obstacle.


In conclusion, an easement in gross offers a unique framework for non-owners to access and utilize property for specific purposes. This type of easement can confer numerous benefits, particularly to utility companies who need access to properties for delivering and maintaining services. However, the nature and conditions of these agreements necessitate careful drafting and management to prevent potential disputes.

Property owners must understand the extent of the rights and obligations carried with an easement in gross, thereby enabling harmonious coexistence between them and the easement holder. To that end, consulting with professionals, such as easement attorneys, can provide invaluable guidance and clarity for both parties.

Article by
Kateryna Adkham

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