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What are easements and boundary lines?

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Whether you’re buying a property, building a house or renovating your property, easements and boundary lines could potentially throw a spanner in the works of your plans.

While rules and regulations vary between states and councils, it is important to understand the fundamentals of easements and boundary lines.

What is an easement?

The legal definition of an easement is the right to cross or otherwise use a portion of someone else’s land. In property terms, this means a person has the right to use your property for a specific purpose even though they are not the landowner.

There are a number of different types of easements, but generally an easement may be required to provide other properties access to essential services such as water or electricity.

If you are thinking about donning a hard hat and building your new home with help of a construction loan, it’s important to understand what easements will come into play and how they will influence decisions over the course of your building journey.

Types of easements

Right of carriageway

Allowing your neighbours to access their property through the use of your driveway is called ‘right of carriageway’. While this passage must not be blocked, it is not the responsibility of the owner of the property to maintain the carriageway.

Easement for services

This type of easement exists so that essential services such as water, electricity and sewerage, can be conveyed to those who need it.

The easement may be above or under the property, such as power lines or stormwater pipes. If an authority has an easement registered over your land, they have full access to the easement so they can carry out repairs and maintenance.

In most cases, easement for services are called statutory easements. If you were to build over a statutory easement, you would need to obtain council approval.

Easement of support

As mentioned above, this easement provides neighbouring properties reciprocal rights such as mutual support of a structure.

Easement of light and air

Building certain walls or structures are prevented under this easement if they restrict your neighbour’s views.

Going ahead and building without checking for an easement of 'light and air' could turn out to be a costly exercise as it’s possible you will have to demolish the work.

Can you remove an easement?

An easement on your property may no longer be required and you may have the opportunity to have it removed from your property’s title depending on whether it’s private or public.

A private easement is an agreement between neighbours to create a specific easement such as a wall, fence or access, whereas a public easement is an easement created by statutory authority such as local council. 

An easement can be removed in specific situations including:

  • the easement grantee and the easement grantor reach an agreement.

  • properties are combined into one parcel of land under single ownership.

  • the property isn’t being used and the easement is abandoned.

  • the property is altered, e.g. battle-axe block may acquire alternative direct access if a new street is constructed at its rear.

What are boundary lines?

Boundary lines are the invisible lines that mark the limits of an area. When it comes to your property these mark the legal size and shape of your land so you know its limitations. Council regulations with regards to boundaries are designed to make the sharing of boundaries fair for all parties.

Your boundary lines will also dictate the area that you are responsible for, so you know where you can build fences or specific structures. This is useful information if you’re considering expanding your home or tackling a project like a pool, shed or granny flat.

When building a specific structure like a pool, for safety reasons it is a legal requirement for it to be built a certain distance away from the boundary line.

You can find out your boundary lines by looking at the deed to your home, which is provided upon sale. To gain a physical understanding, you can use a tape measure and check the boundaries for yourself or you can use a licensed surveyor for a more accurate reading.  

Most residential boundaries are defined by private properties on three sides and public property on the road frontage side. Road frontage regulations are designed to ensure a residence does not intrude upon public property.

This means your new home will have to be situated a certain distance from a sidewalk or road, and a driveway cannot block traffic or divert street drainage.

Final word

Before you sign on the dotted line, It’s important to find out what easements and boundaries apply to the property you seek to purchase.

Conveyancing and building inspections can provide such information, or you can ask your local council if there are any existing easements on the land before you express your intent to buy.

This is especially important for property developers or for anyone buying vacant land, because the easement may restrict where on your land you are able to build without impacting service access.

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About the article

As Australia's leading online lender, loans.com.au has been helping people into their dream homes and cars for more than 10 years. Our content is written and reviewed by experienced financial experts. The information we provide is general in nature and does not take into account your personal objectives or needs. If you'd like to chat to one of our lending specialists about a home or car loan, contact us on Live Chat or by calling 13 10 90.

Tags: buying a house