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What’s the difference between Rights of Way and Easements?

The terms easement and right of way are similar and often interchanged.

“Easement” is the right and privilege to cross or otherwise use someone else’s land for a specified, expressed purpose. Examples might be a utility easement for power, a water or sewer line easement, a view easement for a scenic overlook, or an easement for a walking path to the pond or ocean.

An easement could also be the voluntary surrender of property rights (a negative easement). An example would be a conservation easement where the property owner agrees not to construct anything on a parcel or use the land for a specific purpose like timber harvesting or farming in exchange for monetary consideration or tax benefits.

“Right of way” is the legal right, established by usage or grant, to pass along a specific route crossing someone else’s land. An example would be granting a right of way for a road to another property or a granting the utility company a right of way over your property to put up wires and poles to deliver services to your home or neighboring homes.