Guide to Land Right of Way Laws & Easements in Mississippi

Specific property rights usually exclude others from using a piece of land owned by someone else in the U.S.

However, right of way and easement laws in Mississippi grant access to others who may require access to the land for a specific purpose. A common example is where a piece of land is surrounded by other people’s land and the property owner must travel over that land to exit and enter his/her property.

Easement laws are designed to help prevent disputes and court cases but sometimes they have unforeseen consequences for land and property owners/buyers in Mississippi. Understanding these laws is essential if you require right of way, if right of way is required across your property or if you’re considering buying a property with an easement granted.

Similar laws apply to private property and government-held, public, crown or state lands, depending on the type of easement granted.

Types of right of way/easement in Mississippi

Easements in Mississippi may involve a specific portion of land or a larger area of the property. Generally speaking, they are classified in property law either as an easement in gross or an easement appurtenant.

  • Easements in gross are provided for a specific purpose and, if property ownership is transferred, a new easement agreement must be made.
  • Easements appurtenant are attached to the land, not the person, so they continue to apply even when the land is transferred to a new owner.

Different pieces of land may have different types of right of way and each state has laws that govern access and time limits on easements.

The following are some of the most common types of easements that we see in Mississippi:

  • Right-of-way easements: these allow a person to travel across another person’s land to get somewhere else. They can be granted to an individual, a group of people or the public and are “appurtenant” types of easements.
  • Utility easements: these are the most common type of easement for property owners in Mississippi, granting utility companies the right to use a certain portion of the property.
  • Conservation easements: these are where a landowner agrees with a land trust or government agency to limit the use of the property, for land or historic preservation for the public benefit.
  • Prescriptive easements: these are where an individual who has been using a piece of land without permission obtains the right to keep using that land within certain specified restrictions.
  • Easements by necessity: where someone has a legal right to use a section of land, as long as there is a valid need for it, e.g., a home surrounded by another person’s land.

How is an easement granted in Mississippi?

Easements are generally granted by contracts, deeds or wills.

However, prescriptive easements may also be granted in situations that involve “squatting”, where an easement is attained due to another party’s continuous, adverse, hostile or open use of another person’s land.

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What else should landowners know about easements?

Landowners should be fully aware of any easements or rights of way granted on their property so that legal misunderstandings are avoided.

Easements do not imply ownership and the land can only be accessed for a specific stated purpose, such as traveling or access to utilities. Often a specific period is attached to the easement, after which the right of way or easement is terminated. However, if the easement is on a deed, it may remain indefinitely.

Importantly, a right of way does not provide any rights to sell the land or property.

How do easements affect property values in Mississippi?

Property owners and prospective buyers should be aware of the possible impact of easements on the value of the land or property.

Much depends on the degree of interference that the easement grants. An occasional traveler or hunter passing through a piece of land is unlikely to have much effect on property prices but if there is a steady flow of public foot traffic, cyclists, or horse riders across a piece of land, it could lower the perceived value of the land.

Conversely, some easements can actually increase the value of a property. For instance, an easement that benefits the community can raise the value of all properties in that area.

For people searching for a piece of land to buy, bear in mind that land that already has an easement attached to it is valued appropriately to take this into account.

If an easement is granted after the land is purchased, the property may potentially be valued lower or higher than the original purchase price depending on the nature of the easement and the rights conveyed.

Generally speaking, for residential properties, the effect of easements on property values is negligible, especially if the easements apply only to the perimeters of the piece of land for utility management purposes.

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How can you identify an easement?

Potential land buyers should check for easements on land that they are interested in and understand how to identify them.

The majority of easements are not granted in property deeds but through other methods. This means that they may not always be obvious to prospective buyers.

The easements may be stored in public records, which could mean a trip to the local courthouse to check. If no record of an easement exists, a physical inspection of the property in question should be able to identify obvious signs of an easement, such as tracks, stormwater drains or other evidence of property usage by anyone other than the owner.

A seasoned real estate lawyer can help you identify easements and explain rights of way and any other aspects of property law that may affect your landholding or potential property purchase.

For easement issues in the Biloxi area of Mississippi, contact a commercial and residential real estate lawyer at Rushing & Guice, PLLC for legal advice and assistance.

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