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Legal Matters: How Does a License Differ From an Easement?

Kcolorby Kathleen G. Moriarty, Peters and Moriarty, Attorney and Consular at Law

An easement is an interest in land that gives the holder some lawful use over the property of another; it is a specific “right to use.” Although it does not convey ownership, an easement “runs with the land” — meaning that its terms are binding on future owners and users of the land.

Similarly, a license is a right to use, but it is not permanent. A license grants authority to the licensee to do a particular act or series of acts upon another’s land, to use or occupy the land for a special purpose, where such use would otherwise be considered trespass. A license is non-assignable, meaning that it is personal to the licensee.

Unlike an easement, a license does not run with the land; therefore, the sale or other conveyance of the premises automatically revokes or terminates the license. Even if a license is irrevocable during the time the grantor owns the property, it is terminated when the grantor conveys the property.

Thus, the same use may be granted by way of an easement or a license — for example, the right to access property for the purpose of taking water from a spring. The primary difference for parties to consider, however, is the permanency of that right.

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