Utility Easements Explained

July 21, 2023

What Is a “Utility Easement”?

Eminent domain and condemnation cases do not always involve the taking of property in fee simple, which means all of the ownership rights to a piece of property. Sometimes government or utility entities request the right to use a portion of land for limited purposes to lay underground or aboveground pipes, power lines, or other utilities. This type of acquisition is known as a “utility easement” and is a common issue for many property owners.

Examples of the types of utilities that may require an easement include: 

  • Electricity
  • Water 
  • Natural gas
  • Wastewater
  • Fiber optic or other communication lines

Determining Valuation and Damages

When determining the value of land needed for easement, the total compensation is based on the value of the footprint of the easement area, plus any diminished value to the rest of the property that is caused by the easement (also called “remainder damages”). An easement typically allows the easement holder to do certain things, like clear the surface of the easement, trench the surface to allow for the installation of below ground utilities, or other similar activities. Easements can be as small as a few feet wide for very small pipelines to several hundred feet wide for large above ground electric transmission lines.

Compensation is determined by the equation below.

Value of the Easement Footprint Area + 

Remainder Damages (diminished value to the remainder property) + 

Cost to Cure (hard costs incurred to restore property to pre-taking condition) =

Total Compensation

An illustration of a pipeline easement and potential damages associated.

Your Property Rights Remain the Same in Utility Easement Cases
An entity that has the power to condemn follows the same procedure to acquire property as other condemnors such as the State or Cities and Counties. The law regarding valuation of easements is similar to the law in valuing the acquisition of property in fee simple, or all of the ownership rights to a piece of property, like you would typically see in a road or highway acquisition. Every case is unique and depends on the type of property impacted and the type of easement. If you have been contacted about the acquisition of an easement on your property, contact Barron, Adler, Clough & Oddo, PLLC to discuss your circumstance and determine the next steps.