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Imply an Easement by Subdivision Plat

By Alan R. Romero

The parties’ actions may imply the intent to create an easement without any express agreement. There obviously isn’t written evidence of such easements that would satisfy the statute of frauds, but they’re enforceable anyway. Property law recognizes an implied easement in three situations:

  • Prior use

  • Necessity

  • Subdivision plat

A subdivision plat may imply the grant of easements to buyers of subdivided lots. A subdivision plat is a map showing how a subdivision will be laid out, with streets and individual lots. If the subdividing developer gives the streets to the public, which is automatic in some states, the lot owners generally have no need to claim a private easement over the public streets.

But if the streets are private, the lot owners may have implied easements to drive over those streets. Likewise, they may have implied easements to use parks and other neighborhood amenities shown on the plat.

States vary in the extent to which lot owners acquire easements over streets in a subdivision plat. There are three approaches:

  • Broad rule: Each lot owner has an easement over all the streets in the plat.

  • Intermediate rule: Each lot owner has an easement over all the streets in the plat that reasonably benefit the use of his lot.

  • Narrow rule: Each lot owner has an easement over the streets that are necessary to get from his lot to a public street.