Buying a house is exciting – but that excitement can turn to dismay really quickly when you find out that the property has some type of encumbrance on it that could either derail the transaction or interfere with your plans.

An encumbrance on a piece of property means that someone other than the primary owner has a legal interest in the place. That likely damages its value, makes it harder to sell or transfer and can limit what you can do with the property in certain ways. The most common encumbrances are:

  • Easements: Easements come in various forms. Easements in gross are attached to a particular person (like an elderly neighbor’s right to go mushroom hunting in the woods attached to a home) or they can run with the property, such as an easement that allows your neighbor access to the main road via your driveway. Other easements are associated with preserving the land or nature or allowing access to the utility lines.
  • Restrictions: These are covenants and conditions that go along with the land when it is sold. You may commonly find these in housing developments, where the size or shape of the houses are dictated according to the development’s charter.
  • Encroachments: An encroachment is any building that intrudes over the one person’s property and onto another. You may find, for example, that the neighbor’s fence is two feet over the property line or that their shed is actually on your land.
  • Liens: Liens are often placed during construction disputes with a contractor or after lawsuits. They usually have to be paid before the title is transferred.

Whatever your concerns about an encumbrance on a property, an experienced real estate attorney can help.