Easements under Tennessee law

Property law is notoriously complex, and some of the most complex legal issues in real estate involve easements.

Tennessee law defines an easement as a property interest that gives someone a right to use property owned by someone else for a specific purpose.

For example, imagine that Amos owns a large plot of land in a rural area. His neighbor, Zack, owns an adjoining plot, but it is accessible only by driving a short distance over Amos’ land. Zack claims to have an easement over Amos’ property for this purpose.

Creation of an easement

The best way to create an easement is through a transfer in a deed, using all the formalities of any property transfer. This type of transaction will spell out all the rights and responsibilities of both property owners, and provide ways to resolve any disputes that might arise in the future.

However, courts can also find an easement through implication. For instance, in the case of Amos and Zack above, a court may find that an easement has been created by necessity or by prior use.

Common sources of disputes

To return to the example of Amos and Zack again, imagine that the two landowners create the easement. Years go by without any problems between them, but eventually, Amos sells his land to Marvin.

When Marvin takes over the property, he puts up a fence that prevents Zack from accessing his land. Zack takes legal action in an effort to enforce his property rights under the easement.

If Amos included the easement on the deed when he sold the land to Marvin, then Zack’s rights are clear. Things get trickier if Amos neglected to include the easement. In this case, Zack will have to convince the court that an easement exists by implication.

Another type of dispute might involve an easement user who exceeds their allowed use of the property. For instance, if Zack built a structure on Amos’ land, he would be overstepping his rights. Amos might take legal action, asking that Zack either remove the structure or compensate him for the loss of part of his property.


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