What You Need To Know About Right-Of-Way-Easements

If you're thinking of hunting or riding an ATV in a local clearing make sure it's not a utility easement. You could be arrested.

Information or laws that you're unaware of can get you in big trouble. A common misconception about right-of-way easements for utility companies is that they are public property. They're not. The utility company must obtain the easement from the land owner so that they are able to furnish their customers with power or gas. An easement is a legally obtained document between the company and the land owner giving the utility company the right to enter the property at will. Although the property continues to belong to the land owner the company has legal rights to perform maintenance, drive through just to check on matters or to set up power poles or boxes. For anyone other than the land owner and the utility company the property is still private property. The land owner can take a person to court after finding him trespassing on the property without specific permission. In addition, stiff fines and penalties can be put on the trespasser by the utility company, through the court system.

There are a couple of different types of easements. One is a distribution easement which is about a twenty to forty foot wide pathway that allows the company to access the power or gas line that furnishes utilities to the home owner. Because of this home owners are not compensated for this easement. In most towns it's against the law to refuse this type of easement to the power company. Without the easement hundreds of people would go without utilities.

A different type of easement is a transmission easement which is usually about a hundred feet in width. It allows the ground for transmission lines or underground pipes. The land owner is usually compensated for this type of easement by receiving a monthly or yearly check. Sometimes the utility company will simply deduct the amount from your power or gas bill.

Once the easement is plowed and the poles and wires are in place the utility company maintains the entire strip of land to keep trees and undergrowth away from the power lines. Even though the maintenance is done by the utility company the land owner still holds full rights to post "no trespassing" signs and to prosecute those who ignore the signs.

Some hunters like stalking these easements because it's a good clearing, often right through the woods, in which to spot wild game. Not only is this illegal but it's very dangerous to those who maintain the easement. All-terrain vehicle owners also love the easements because usually limbs and tall brush have been removed yet the terrain remains rough and fun for riding. Trespassers have been known to camp, party, picnic or simply sunbathe in the clearing. Legally, though, only the owner and the utility company have a right to be on the property.

Although the area is maintained it's never a good idea to play or ride near power lines. For this reason alone it's wise not to trespass on easements and right-of-ways. Knowing the law and how it pertains to easements will keep you safe while avoiding legal mishaps.

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