Can a landowner remove trees from an express easement?

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Can a landowner remove trees from an express easement?

There are some trees that need to be removed from a right-of-way that measures 50 foot wide and is approximately 500 foot long that goes to my property. About 3 years ago I installed a gravel driveway to access my property and did not need to remove any trees. Other than that my property is undeveloped. This is a private right-of-way that was laid out back in 1906 within a plan that has about 500 small 40 feet by 120 feet lots, I have 30 of these lots. I want to go ahead and install utilities and there are some trees that need to be removed. Is it OK to remove the trees that interfere with my installation of these utilities?

Asked on July 5, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If I understand your question, you are the landowner and there is a right of way, pursuant to an express easement, across part of your property. If that is correct, then the answer will lie in the terms of the easement; while easements are not contracts, they function to a large extent like contracts, in that the rights and restrictions they provide are those, and only those, set out in their terms. So if the easement does not expressly prevent you from doing this, and furthermore, cutting down the trees does not interfere with any rights provided by the easement (i.e. the beneficiary can still do everything he/she/it is entitled to), then you should be able to remove the trees; make sure that as you do so, you do not disrupt the easement in the process (or if you unavoidably do--e.g. fallen trees block the right of way), it is for the minimum time and extent possible.


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