Floating Easements

Exactly where is your easement?!? Gotcha, your easement must be invalid. The deed doesn’t say where the easement runs.

To comply with the statute of frauds, “a contract or deed for the conveyance of land must contain a description of the land sufficiently definite to locate it without recourse to oral testimony, or else it must contain a reference to another instrument which does contain a sufficient description.” Bigelow v. Mood, 56 Wn.2d 340, 341, 353 P.2d 429 (1960).  A surveyor, relying on the document only, must be able to locate the exact area of the property.

With an easement, the deed need not establish the actual location of the easement. All that must be described with certainty is the servient estate (the land that the easement runs over). Berg v. Ting, 125 Wn.2d 544, 886 P.2d 564 (1995).

When the location of the easement is not stated in the deed, it is a “floating” or “roving” easement and a court may consider parol evidence (oral or documents other than the deed) to establish their precise location on the servient estate. Smith v. King, 27 Wn.App. 869, 870-71,620 P.2d 542 (1980).

Similar, if the easement has an undefined width, it is controlled by the doctrine of reasonable enjoyment – the width will be restricted to that which is reasonably necessary and convenient to effectuate the original purpose for granting the easement.

This blog post is offered for general information and educational purposes only. It is not offered as legal advice and does not constitute legal advice or opinion. Although I intend to keep this information current, I do not promise or guarantee that the information is correct, complete, or up-to date. You should not act or reply upon the information in this post without seeking the advice of an attorney.

Leave a Reply