Picture showing 2 houses with descriptors of drainage and utility easement and rights of way

When you first fell in love with your home, it may have been the open concept floor plan that sold you. Perhaps the yard or the view of the pond sealed the deal. But it’s doubtful you thought, or even asked, about the easements or rights-of-way related to the property.

Easements 101

Easements provide legal rights to use another’s property. They typically look like the rest of your yard, but have restrictions on how you can use and what you can build in these areas. Each type of easement has a specific purpose. Here’s what you should know:

  • Rights-of-way are public areas used for trails, sidewalks, snow storage and such. They are also locations for electric, gas, and other utilities. Rights-of-way along roadways are also designated for snow storage, trails, and sidewalks.
  • Drainage and utility easements are where storm sewers, sanitary sewers, water lines and storm ponds are located. When any of these need fixes or upgrades, easements provide access for the work.
  • Conservation easements are often near a lake, pond, or wetland. Each one’s dimensions and size is different. They are designated to protect wildlife or natural habitats and must remain free of retaining walls, yard waste, or pet waste. Some must remain unmowed.

All easements/rights-of-way provide access for work and/or water drainage, so certain uses are restricted or need permission. Fences, swimming pools, trees or sheds and even garden soil or rock may cause problems in an easement.

City or other utilities crews have the right to access easements; they are not trespassing when they work within these areas. Sometimes brush needs to be cleared or trees within easements need to be removed. Easements need to remain accessible and may be cleared in advance of an actual need. Typically, homeowners will receive a notice when work needs to be done.

How do I know where easements are on my property?

The standard drainage and utility easement is ten feet along the front and five feet along the side and rear of most yards, but may vary based on the presence of utilities or ponds.

Not sure if your property has an easement? Check your property documents, as most easements were set when the property was originally platted or developed. Information is available on the Dakota County website.

Want to know more?

Additional information can be found at cityofeagan.com/easements or you can call the City’s Engineering Division at (651) 675-5646.