Last Updated: August 29, 2020
In this article we explain how to find a description and probably a diagram of a driveway easement. Your county courthouse will help you locate this information on a subdivision plat or other recorded document. Read more below.
Visitor Question: I have lost my original contract to my home. There is a variance listed on it for use of a small portion of my neighbor's property for my driveway. Would this information be listed on my deed?
Editors Answer: It is certainly possible that the information about your right to use part of your neighbor's property for your own driveway, or as part of your driveway, would be shown on your deed.
We have learned over the years that local customs and state laws generate quite a few variations in the way real estate transactions and topics are handled, even within the U.S. So we have to say the answer to your question is maybe.
It is also quite possible that this right to use a driveway is not written into your own deed, but instead is shown on your neighbor's deed.
While this right to use part of your neighbor's property may well have been described to you as a variance, a more universally descriptive term would be easement, by the way. That's why we changed the title of your submittal.
The sure way to determine whether an easement has been recorded, and is therefore enforceable, is by checking with your county office that records deeds and other real estate-related documents. Usually this is called the recorder of deeds. Just ask someone there to help you find out if there was an easement granted by the owner of your neighboring property. Be sure to have the address of your neighbor's property handy when you go there.
Then by all means, get a photocopy of the document that grants you the easement so that this does not become an issue somewhere in the future when a conflict arises or when there is a new owner of the property next door.
If the office of the recorder of deeds cannot find anything about this easement, by all means try to correct that situation by having a formal easement drawn up by an attorney, signed by your neighbor, and recorded at the court house. This is the surest way to make sure that your right of ingress and egress is not interrupted in the future.
Again, you might have to adjust this advice based on local custom, so you could ask about this at the recorder of deeds office. In some states attorneys are routinely employed for every real estate transaction, but in others, the real estate agents and brokers, as well as title companies, are the guardians of whether proper legal steps have been taken to secure rights that have been described orally to new buyers.
This should help you have the right conversations to make sure everything is proceeding as you expected when you bought your property.
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