Title Exceptions

What Are Plotted Easements?

One purpose of a preliminary title report and an eventual title policy is to document the recorded encumbrances on a particular property.  The title company will provide title insurance, essentially ensuring that a buyer will have clear title to a property.  However, in most cases the title company will list “exceptions” to their title policy, which are generally recorded title documents that in some manner impact the use of the property.  One of the main categories of these exceptions are easements – which is the right of another party to use a portion of the property.

Some very common easements are those issued to utility companies, such as a water agency or electrical company.  Some easements may be granted to a private party, perhaps for the right to travel across the property or maybe providing access for maintenance of a property line wall.  The easement document itself can have 1 – 3 pages of legal narrative and is almost always accompanied by legal description, which describes where the easement is located.  The easement location could be a 25-foot wide swath across the property, a 5-foot strip adjacent to the property line, or possibly a rectangular or trapezoidal shape.  It all depends on what the easement was needed for and granted by a previous property owner.

Especially as it relates to developing a property, it is imperative to understand the locations of these easements.  A title company will provide a “plotted easement” graphic, which tends to be a map of the property with the easements plotted in color codes that tie back to the exceptions on the title report.  These plotted easements now indicate the location of the easements and how they might encumber your future use of the property.

When ordering a preliminary title report, it is just a matter of asking that plotted easements are provided with the report.  If you do not receive the graphic or there are no easements plotted, it is possible that no recorded easements encumber the property.  At that point, you would want to review the exceptions within the title report and confirm no easements are listed.

Keep in mind that the title company will probably state that they offer no assurances as to the accuracy of the plotted easements.  When you are doing your due diligence, it is not a bad idea to get a civil engineer or surveyor to review the plots to make sure a mistake was not made.

As always, please feel free to share your comments and questions with us below.

John Kaye has over 30 years experience within the land development and homebuilding industries, having held senior management positions with The Irvine Company, Koll Real Estate Group, and Brookfield Homes. As a developer, John has overseen the land acquisition, entitlements, and development of master planned communities, residential tracts, urban infill sites, and land assemblages. His experience and skill sets include land acquisition, land brokerage, project management, market analysis, finance, and strategic planning.

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