We often come across easements that are not well-defined (known as “undefined easements”), or easements that encumber an entire parcel (known as “blanket easements”). In this article, we’re going to talk about the differences between undefined easements and blanket easements.
The Difference Between Undefined Easements & Blanket Easements
An undefined easement occurs when there is an easement that appears to burden the property, but it cannot be located. A blanket easement occurs when the legal description for the easement on the burdened parcel covers or blankets the entire burdened parcel. The easement isn’t confined to just a portion of the burdened parcel – it actually encumbers or affects the entire parcel. That can be problematic for the owner of the burdened parcel because if there are improvements on or other uses for the burdened parcel, the holder or beneficiary of the easement can demand that those improvements be removed or other uses stopped. For example, if a building lies on a parcel that is encumbered by a blanket easement, the holder or beneficiary of the easement could potentially demand that the building be removed. This is because the holder of beneficiary of a blanket easement ostensibly has the right to use that easement across the entire burdened parcel.
From a title insurance perspective, if we encounter an easement that is undefined or a blanket easement, depending on the particular circumstances, we may either have an exception for that matter on the title policy or we may require that that easement be defined, confined to a particular area, or released. We see blanket easements most often with energy companies that create easements for utility lines such as a pipeline or an electric transmission line that runs across a property. Especially older drafts of energy related easements will use the entire legal description of a property for the description of the easement area, which creates the blanket easement. In that event, it could be argued that the energy company has the right to use that whole parcel for its utility purposes even though that outcome may not have been intended at the time the easement was drafted. So it’s important to obtain a good description of the actual easement area at the time an easement is drafted to avoid the blanket easement problem.