June 6, 2023


When purchasing or evaluating a piece of property, it is important to understand the legal limitations imposed on it. This can include easements, which grant rights to third parties, and restrictions, which limit what the owner can do with the land.

Identifying these legal encumbrances is critical to fully understanding a property’s value and potential uses. In this article, we will explore how to identify easements and restrictions on a property, as well as their potential implications for property owners and potential buyers.


Overview of Easements

Understanding easements and restrictions is vital for anyone looking to purchase a property. Easements are a type of legal agreement that allows someone else to use a portion of the property for a specific purpose.

These agreements can include things like allowing a utility company to use a portion of the property for power lines or giving a neighbor permission to use a portion of the driveway to access their own property.

Restrictions are limitations placed on the use of the property or land. These could be things like not being able to build a structure above a certain height or not being able to operate a business out of the property. It is important to identify and understand these agreements and limitations before purchasing a property to ensure that you are aware of any potential issues and can make an informed decision about whether or not to move forward with the purchase.

Types of Easements

Types of Easements: Easements are granted by the property owner to a third party, granting them the right to use a portion of the land for a specific purpose.

There are several types of easements that may be present on a property, including express easements, implied easements, and prescriptive easements. Express easements are created through a written contract, such as a deed or lease.

Implied easements are implied by the circumstances surrounding the property ownership, such as a shared driveway that is not explicitly mentioned in the property deed. Prescriptive easements are established when an individual has used a portion of the land openly and continuously for a certain amount of time, without the owner’s permission.

It is important to identify the type of easement on a property to know the extent of the easement holder’s rights and obligations. For example, an express easement may have specific terms outlined in the contract, such as limitations on the type of use or the duration of the easement, while a prescriptive easement may have no such limitations.

These variations in the type of easement can significantly impact the property’s value and the owner’s use of the land.

Types of Restrictions

Types of restrictions on a property may limit what the owner can do with the land and may be enforced by local, state, or federal government agencies. One type of restriction is a zoning restriction, which specifies how a particular area can be used. For example, residential areas may be zoned for single-family homes, duplexes, or multi-family dwellings while commercial areas are designated for commercial use such as office buildings, retail, or industrial use.

Another type of restriction is an environmental restriction, which limits the kind of activity that can be undertaken in a particular area to protect the environment.

These categories of restrictions might include zoning regulations limiting the use of the land, building codes that dictate how structures must be constructed, and historic preservation regulations that protect historic areas from development that could damage their cultural or historical significance. Another critical type of restriction that is often imposed on a property is an easement.

Easements grant another person or entity the right to use a portion of the property, such as a utility company or the government for public access to a particular area. These types of restrictions can impact the use and value of a property, so it is essential to identify them before making any purchase or developing the land.

Researching Property Records


The property deed is a legal document that provides a description of a property, including any easements and restrictions that may be attached to it. To find easements and restrictions on a property deed, you will need to review the document carefully.

One way to do this is to locate the section of the deed that outlines any easements or restrictions. This section may be titled “Restrictions and Easements” or “Reservations and Exceptions.” It may also be included in the property description section.

Once you have located this section, read it carefully to understand the nature of any easements or restrictions on the property. These may include right-of-way easements, utility easements, or restrictions on land use, building height, or zoning. It is crucial to understand any easements or restrictions on a property before purchasing or developing it to ensure compliance with local regulations and avoid potential legal disputes.

Plat Map

An essential tool in identifying easements and restrictions on a property is the plat map. A plat map is a detailed drawing of a land parcel that shows the location of the property lines, dimensions of the property, and any physical features present on the site.

It also indicates the location and extent of any easements or restrictions present on the property. Easements can be visible on a plat map as rights-of-way, private easements, or public utility easements.

These easements may allow others to use a portion of the property for specific purposes, such as providing access to utility companies or maintaining a road. On the other hand, restrictions may include zoning and building regulations that limit the use of the property.

Plat maps can be obtained from the local county offices or through online services, and they are an excellent resource for property buyers to identify any limitations or obligations associated with a particular property.

Title Report

Another way to identify easements and restrictions on a property is by examining the title report. A title report is a document that provides a comprehensive history of a property’s ownership, including any liens, judgments, or restrictions that may have been attached to the property over the years.

To obtain a title report, one must contact a title company or an attorney experienced in real estate law. Once obtained, the title report should be reviewed carefully to identify any easements or restrictions that could impact the use or value of the property.

Easements may be identified in the title report by searching for keywords such as “easement,” “right-of-way,” or “access.” Likewise, restrictions may be listed under the section for “covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs).” It is important to note that not all easements or restrictions may be listed in the title report, as some may only be discovered through a physical inspection or survey of the property.

Physical Inspection


A property survey is a critical tool in identifying easements and restrictions on a property. A surveyor should be hired to conduct a physical survey to identify the boundary lines. Once the boundary lines have been established, the surveyor will locate any easements or restrictions that may affect the property.

In some cases, any easements or restrictions that are present on the property may not be visible. However, during the survey, the surveyor may identify physical markers that indicate the location of the easement or restriction, such as utility lines or a driveway that crosses into the property. The surveyor will also research the local land records to identify any recorded easements or restrictions on the property.

It is essential to obtain a copy of this report to verify that there are no easements or restrictions that the surveyor may have missed. Additionally, a survey report will provide information on the zoning and flood zones that may affect the property. A thorough survey report is critical to identifying any potential risks or limitations on the property during the buying or selling process.


In addition to conducting a property survey, another way to identify easements and restrictions on a property is by looking for physical signs. Signs can provide valuable information about the property’s history, boundaries, and potential limitations.

The most common physical signs of an easement or restriction are boundary markers, such as fences, walls, and hedges, and signs that indicate land use restrictions, such as “no trespassing,” “private property,” or “no parking.” Additionally, a property may have signs indicating that it is subject to an easement, such as a utility pole, a manhole cover, or a culvert.

These signs can give clues about the location and extent of the easement and help identify any limitations on the property owner’s use of the land.

Working with Professionals

Real Estate Agent

Real estate agents are well-versed in property transactions, and they have the expertise to help buyers identify easements and restrictions on a property. They can perform a detailed search of the property’s title and other records to verify if there are any known restrictions or easements on the property.

If there are, they can inform the buyers of the implications of these restrictions and advise them on the best course of action. Real estate agents can also liaise with title companies, surveyors, and attorneys to ensure that buyers have all the information they need to make informed decisions.

Title Company

A title company plays a major role in identifying easements and restrictions on a property. The company conducts a thorough search of the property’s legal history to reveal all publicly recorded documents, such as deeds, liens, and easements. This search is important because it can reveal any legal issues with the property that may prevent a clear title transfer.

A title company can also identify any existing easements that may affect the property’s use, such as rights of way for utility companies or neighbors. Additionally, the company can identify any restrictions on the property, such as zoning regulations or covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs).

These restrictions can affect how the property can be used, and it is important for buyers to be aware of them before making an offer. In summary, a title company is an essential partner in identifying easements and restrictions on a property, helping buyers and sellers make informed decisions based on the property’s legal history.


An attorney can be an invaluable resource when it comes to identifying easements and restrictions on a property. Attorneys typically have a deep understanding of property law and can help ensure that a buyer is fully aware of any potential limitations on a property’s use.

When working with an attorney, buyers can expect to receive guidance on how to review the title report and surfacing of any pertinent information, negotiate for the removal of any unacceptable restrictions or limitations, and ensure their property ownership rights are protected.

Attorneys can also advise buyers on what steps to take should any issues arise with easements or restrictions in the future. In short, an attorney can provide the legal expertise necessary to ensure that a buyer has a clear understanding of any potential limitations or restrictions on a property, and that their rights as a property owner are fully protected.

Importance of Identifying Easements and Restrictions

Identifying easements and restrictions on a property is crucial for several reasons. First, it provides a clear understanding of the property’s legal rights and limitations.

Easements and restrictions can greatly affect a property’s value, usefulness, and development potential. Knowledge of any restrictions on building height, setback requirements, or permitted uses can prevent costly mistakes and legal disputes.

Secondly, identifying easements and restrictions can reveal potential encumbrances on the property. An easement granted to a utility company, for example, may limit future development plans or interfere with the natural beauty of the land. Failure to identify such encumbrances can lead to significant financial burdens in the future.

Thirdly, understanding easements and restrictions can be crucial for negotiating favorable terms during property transactions. Full disclosure of easements and restrictions can instill trust between parties and promote smooth transactions. Conversely, undisclosed easements and restrictions can lead to mistrust and failed negotiations.

Ultimately, identifying easements and restrictions on a property is a fundamental aspect of responsible property ownership and investment. The benefits of this understanding can save time, money and avoid legal headaches. It is always advisable to seek out legal counsel or a qualified real estate professional when dealing with properties and easements.

Final Thoughts

Identifying easements and restrictions on a property is vital for any homebuyer or property owner. It may seem tedious to go through all the legal jargon, but it can save you from future disputes and prevent any unpleasant surprises. Not knowing the limitations of your property or any rights that others may have on it can lead to costly legal battles.

Moreover, when buying a property, it is crucial to understand the easements affecting the land you intend to purchase. Not knowing about the easements or restrictions imposed on the property can impact your ability to use or develop it the way you want to.

Therefore, it is essential to seek legal assistance, work with licensed real estate professionals, and carefully review all legal documents to ensure that you have a full understanding of the property’s easements and restrictions.

Easements and Restrictions FAQs

1. What is an easement on a property?

An easement is a legal right to use someone else’s land for a specific purpose, such as accessing a neighboring property or using a shared driveway. It can impact the property’s value and the rights of the owner.

2. How can I identify if there is an easement on a property?

You can identify an easement by reviewing the property’s deed, survey, and title report. Easements may be recorded with the county recorder’s office and can also be found in the public records.

3. What are common types of easements?

There are several types of easements, including right-of-way, utility, drainage, and view easements. Right-of-way easements allow someone to travel across your land, while utility easements allow for the placement of power lines or other infrastructure.

4. What are property restrictions?

Property restrictions are rules that limit how the property can be used. This can include zoning regulations, homeowner association rules, and deed restrictions. They can impact a property’s value and what can be done on the land.

5. How do I find property restrictions on a property?

You can find property restrictions in the property’s deed or title report. Additionally, you can check with the local government zoning office or homeowner association to see if there are any restrictions on the property.

6. What should I do if I discover an easement or restriction on a property?

If you discover an easement or restriction on a property, you should consult with a real estate attorney or title company to understand how it may impact the property’s value or use. You may also want to negotiate any changes to the easement or restriction with the affected party.

About the Author

As a native Washingtonian, Carlos Reyes’ journey in the real estate industry began more than 15 years ago when he started an online real estate company. Since then, he’s helped more than 700 individuals and families as a real estate broker achieve their real estate goals across Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC.

Carlos now helps real estate agents grow their business by teaching business fundamentals, execution, and leadership.

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