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What are preservation easements?

Preservation easements are a type of legal tool that can be used to protect certain types of land or structures, though they can also impede development or renovation plans for home or commercial property owners. Such easements can be especially frustrating if you run into them without knowing about them before you make plans or investments.

Whatever side of an easement issue you find yourself on, you might have some legal options for protecting your property or interests. Talking to a lawyer experienced in land use matters might be a good idea.

Preservation easements are just one type of easement. Typically, they are used to protect historical or otherwise significant properties. You can use a preservation easement to keep someone now or in the future from making structural changes to a building. You can also even make it impossible to purposefully make certain topographical changes, thus protecting landscapes, conservation areas or gardens.

In addition to the protective benefits of a preservation easement, property owners can leverage some tax wins in certain situations. Property tax in some cases is calculated on the use designation of the easement instead of the value if the property is later developed within the parameters of the easement. Since development might increase the value of the property, the easement designation could result in a tax savings.

Property usually has to be deemed historically important before a preservation easement can be established. Most buildings within a historic district have a strong chance of qualifying, but not all property within such areas contributes to the historical significance.

If you're purchasing property near historic areas or believe your property might have historical significance, make sure you understand all easement issues before moving forward.

Source: FindLaw, "Preservation Easements," accessed Feb. 16, 2017

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