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Easements: Appurtenant, In Gross — Enforcement

An easement confers a right to use the real estate of another for a general or specific purpose. Farmers Drainage Dist. of Ray Cnty. v. Sinclair Refining Co., 255 S.W.2d 745, 748 (Mo. 1953). It is not an ownership interest; it is a “use interest.” Id. And even though it is not an ownership interest, it can still be enforced at law or in equity. In other words, you can file a lawsuit and ask for money damages as a result of being denied use of an easement or you can file a request for preliminary/permanent injunctive relief (or even a temporary restraining order in more urgent situations).

Easements are either “appurtenant” or “in gross.” An easement appurtenant create a dominant tenement — the land benefiting from the easement — and a servient tenement — the land which is encumbered by the easement. Gardner v. Maffitt, 74 S.W.2d 604, 606–07 (Mo. 1934). An easement appurtenant runs with the land, meaning that the right to use the easement is passed on to whoever owns the property in the future. An easement in gross conveys a personal interest in right to use the land independent of ownership of land. Henley v. Continental Cablevision of St. Louis Cnty.Inc., 692 S.W.2d 825, 827 (Mo. Ct. App. 1985). Because an easement in gross is personal, there is not a dominant tenement. Three-O-Three Invs., Inc. v. Moffitt, 622 S.W.2d 736, 739 (Mo. Ct. App. 1981).

Beyond this, common issues pertaining to easements are trespass, nuisance, adverse possession, abandonment, and the precise boundaries of the easement (often necessitating a quiet title action or a request for declaratory judgment).

Contact us with questions pertaining to easements or real estate.