Buying a home or a piece of property may seem like a fairly straight forward thing. Someone owns the land, you buy it from them, then you own the land. Unfortunately, there are many title issues that can keep you from using the land the way that you see fit. Unknown Easements and Undiscovered Encumbrances are just two of these issues. Let’s take a closer look at what each of them are.
Some of these issues may have come about during the previous owners ownership, and while they were grandfathered in, and the issue wouldn’t have effected them, once the title changes hands, the issue will effect you as the new owner.
An easement is a right to use and/or enter onto the real property of another without possessing it. In Southwest Florida this is typical with many cities retaining rights for storm drains and sidewalks along the street. When I was growing up in Cape Coral we use to say that the city owned the first 15 feet onto your property. Well they don’t own it, there is just an easement.
Some lesser known easements that you could run into could be a historic preservation easement that can restrict alterations to a historic building, or a conservation easement that can limit development on a piece of property to help preserve the environment.
Utility easements can also be common in Southwest Florida where one piece of property does not have direct access to a utility (like sewage), so their pipes are run under a neighboring property. This type of easement can easily be overlooked as in many cases the original work was done many decades ago, and the easement may have never effected the current owners. However, if the new owners are planning a remodel or expansion of the home, this type of easement could be very costly.
An easement is actually a type of encumbrance. So, unknown easements are actually undiscovered encumbrances.
Liens are also encumbrances, however liens are usually taken care of from the proceeds of the sale of the home, and not passed on to the home buyer. A lien may come from a bank, or a contractor who wasn’t paid for work they did on the property. Tax liens are also common.
Deed restrictions are another form of undiscovered encumbrance that can be found often in Southwest Florida. Many gated communities have deed restrictions that can restrict many things to protect property values. These things can pertain to where you are allowed to park cars on the property or where you can place a satellite dish, down to landscaping details.
Another type of encumbrance that is usually discovered when the property is surveyed is encroachments. These encroachments tend to be when a fence goes over a property line, and can even be when a tree on one property has branches that hang over another property. In some cases the adjacent owner can ask for an encroachment to be removed, or request compensation for the encroachment. This can hold back a sale, or reduce the value of a property.
A title services company, like Heights Title, will research a property and title and be able to find any undiscovered encumbrances or unknown easements before the sale of the home is final. These are just a few title problems that can up when a home is bought and sold. Make sure you have someone do the research before you transfer property.