Minnesota Easements

Minnesota Easements

Minnesota Easements

Minnesota EasementsIn General

Minnesota easements are non-possessory interests in the land of another person, and represent the rights of certain persons to enter the land of other persons, in order to use such land for limited purposes.

Minnesota Easements – Uses

Easements are commonly used to provide for:

  • driveways and rights of access,
  • highways and public roads,
  • party walls,
  • retaining walls,
  • access to a body of water for recreational purposes,
  • encroachments – for buildings, driveways, wells, or sewer systems,
  • advertising signs,
  • telecommunication towers,
  • water drainage rights,
  • parking of motor vehicles,
  • access to light and air, and
  • various sundry activities.

Easements have multiple uses, and are suitable for solving a variety of real estate problems.


In general, there are at least two parties who are involved in easements:

  1. the dominant estate, or the benefited parcel – the owners of which are the parties who are able to enjoy the benefits of the easement; and
  2. the servient estate, or the burdened parcel – the owner of which owns the land upon which the easement is located, and which is burdened by the easement.

All parties holding interests which would be burdened by the terms of the easement must join in the easement document – such as co-owners, spouses, certain tenants, and mortgage holders.

Easements – Right-of-way

Easements for right-of-way purposes typically give the owners of benefited parcels – or sometimes the entire public – the right to pass over or cross another person’s land – the burdened parcel.

Easement Area

A primary component in all Minnesota easements is a proper legal description for the easement area.

In almost all situations, a licensed Minnesota surveyor should be retained in order to identify the legal description of the easement area.

Minnesota Easements – Written

Many easements must be in writing in order to satisfy the requirements of a legal concept known as the Statute of Frauds.

The Statute of Frauds may be satisfied if:

  • the intention of the parties is properly expressed in the easement document, and
  • the property subject to the easement is properly described.

Easements – Words of Creation

While no magic words may be necessary in order to create an easement – other than perhaps the use of the word easement – the particular language granting such easements must properly evidence an intention to create the easements.

Easements – Recording

Since Minnesota easements are interests in real property, it is generally advisable that all easement documents be recorded in the County real estate records against both the burdened parcel, and the benefited parcel.

With respect to Minnesota registered property, the easement documents should be properly filed and memorialized on all certificates of title which are affected by the easements.

Minnesota Easements – Running with the Land

Recorded documents which identify easements should declare whether such easements will:

  • “run with the land”, and
  • continue to subject the burdened parcel, and benefit the benefited parcel,

after the current owners of such interests either die, or otherwise convey their ownership interests.

However, in 1940, the Minnesota Supreme Court declared that an easement will run with the land if the purchaser of land subject to an easement has either actual, constructive, or implied notice that the property is burdened with the easement.

Huhn v. Ryan, 208 Minn. 128, 293 N.W. 138 (1940)

Minnesota Easements – Purposes and Duration

Minnesota easements should identify:

  • the purposes of such easements, and
  • the duration of such easements – whether perpetual or some shorter time period.

Minnesota Easements – Exclusive Rights

Easement agreements should identify whether the benefited parcel has been granted exclusive rights to use the easement area on the burdened parcel.

Many Minnesota easements are non-exclusive, and the grantor of the easement may want to retain the right to use the easement area.

However, when easements are to be non-exclusive, the intended beneficiary of the easement may want to limit the ability of the grantor of the easement to allow additional parties to use the burdened easement area.

Minnesota Easements – Duty to Maintain the Easement Area

Minnesota easement agreements should identify:

  • the parties having a responsibility to maintain the easement area on the burdened estate, and
  • how the cost of such maintenance expenses will be allocated among the parties.

Easements – Documents

The greatest flexibility and certainty of result with respect to easements will arise pursuant to the execution of express easement documents – whether such documents take the form of easement agreements, declarations of easement, or deeds of easement.

However, Minnesota easements may also be created by judicial order, mortgage deed, or Will.

Easements – By Implication

Certain easements can be created without the use of any easement document – such as:

  • easements by implication, also known as
  • easements of necessity,

which can arise in favor of the purchaser of a land-locked parcel over the retained real property of the deed grantor.

The doctrine of easement by implication is based upon the principle that a conveyance of real property should include all necessary access to the property – the lack of which would make the real property unusable.

However, any claimed Minnesota easement by implication must actually be necessary.

Mere inconvenience to the purchaser by reason of not having the benefit of the claimed easement will be insufficient to establish a Minnesota easement by implication.

Furthermore, Minnesota easements by implication cannot exist without the prior common ownership of the burdened parcels – and the benefited parcels – immediately prior to the severance of the two estates which created the necessary easement.

Therefore, Minnesota easements by implication cannot be claimed over real property owned by third parties when such third parties had no ownership interest in the title originally held by the selling real property owner.

Easements – By Prescription

Other Minnesota easements which can be created without the use of any easement documents are known as easements by prescription – which are obtained by satisfying many of the requirements established by the doctrine of adverse possession.

Certain of the statutory and common law elements of adverse possessionincluding a 15-year continuous use requirement – must be satisfied in order to claim easements by prescription.

Nevertheless, the acquisition of a prescriptive right-of-way easement would not preclude use of the easement area:

  • by the general public, or
  • by the owner of the burdened parcel.

Easements – Termination

Minnesota easements may either terminate:

  • without any action of the parties, or
  • be subject to termination upon the occurrence of certain events,

for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Completion of the stated duration of the easement – as identified in the easement document;
  • Completion of the particular purpose of easement – as identified in the easement document; 
  • The acquisition of the burdened parcel and the benefited parcel by the same owner;
  • The acquisition of the burdened parcel by a government agency pursuant to eminent domain (condemnation);
  • The abandonment of the easement by the owner of the benefited parcel;
  • The loss of the easement pursuant to adverse possession;
  • The loss of the necessity factor with respect to an easement by implication; or
  • Pursuant to an agreement to terminate the easement – which agreement must be in writing in order to satisfy Statute of Frauds requirements.

Minnesota Easements – Appurtenant Easements

Minnesota easements which are created in order to benefit identified tracts of land are known as “appurtenant easements.”

Minnesota Easements – Transfers of Appurtenant Easements

Unless prohibited by the terms of the easement document, appurtenant easements are transferred together with the benefited parcel, even if the appurtenant easements are not specifically identified in the transfer document.

A grantee of the benefited parcel in a deed of conveyance is therefore entitled to enjoy any Minnesota easement appurtenant thereto, unless the instrument transferring the burdened parcel expressly provides that the Minnesota easement appurtenant shall not pass to the grantee – in which case the easement will be deemed to have been extinguished.

Minnesota case law generally provides that easement rights will be transferred even when the instrument conveying the benefited parcel – such as a warranty deed, quit claim deed, mortgage deed or other document fails to:

  • identify the easement, or
  • contain certain comprehensive transfer of appurtenances language.

Minnesota Easements – in Gross

Minnesota easements which are not appurtenant easements are referred to as easements in gross – which benefit the holders of the easements – whether or not such holders own or possess any real property related to the easements.

Minnesota easements in gross are typically held for commercial purposes – and only commercial Minnesota easements in gross are transferable by the holder.

However, easements in gross can be acquired by either prescription, or implication.

Minnesota Easements – Utility Easements

Common Minnesota easements in gross include utility easements.

Minnesota Easements – Express Easements

The minimum terms required to create Minnesota easements by express grant are:

  • an identification of the real property subject to the easement, and
  • an expression of intent by the parties creating the easement.

Minnesota Easements – Terms of Express Easements

When the terms of Minnesota easements by express grant are unambiguous, such terms will generally be given their plain meaning.

However, when the terms of Minnesota easements by express grant are ambiguous, Minnesota courts may take into consideration extrinsic evidence in order to discern the intent of the parties regarding the scope of the easements.

Minnesota Easements – Remedies

In addition to granting easement rights, Minnesota easements may:

  • impose certain obligations on the holder of the benefited parcel who is entitled to enjoy the easement, and
  • identify certain consequences if such obligations are not satisfied.

Conclusion – Minnesota Easements

Please contact Minnesota Attorney Gary C. Dahle for assistance with the preparation, execution, or recording of any Minnesota Easements.

Copyright 2018 – All Rights Reserved.

No claim to original government works.

Gary C. Dahle – Attorney at Law

2704 Mounds View Blvd., Mounds View, MN 55112

Phone:  763-780-8390   Fax: 763-780-1735


Related topics of interest:

Minnesota Title Evidence of Ownership

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