As a landowner, it can be hard to determine what your rights are when a company begins to negotiate an easement agreement. There are 5 fundamental rules to negotiating an easement regardless of the type of agreement.
Make sure what you agree to is in the agreement
Just because the right-of-way agent says it, doesn’t mean your desire makes it into the final easement. Remember – the right-of way agent works for the company that wants the easement wants the best deal possible. They might not mention double ditching (a way to keep the top soil on top instead of jumbled up with other less desirable material), burying the pipe or easement lower than a minimum depth, or limiting time for construction.
Your property is special and so should your agreement
Your land is special, and as such the agreement probably has to be tailor fit to your property and your needs. As the landowner, you have the right to say “no” to any one size fits all agreement. You can make sure most if not all of your concerns are addressed in the easement agreement. Your concerns, may be about money or future development. Either way, seeking legal counsel early in the process can provide you comfort knowing you have what you want and need in any final agreement.
If you live in Oklahoma you have certain rights as a matter of law
- You are entitled to receive just compensation if your property is taken for a public use.
- Your property can only be taken for a public purpose.
- Oklahoma law prohibits the taking of your property solely for economic development.
- Your property can only be taken by a governmental entity or private entity authorized by law to do so.
- The entity must notify you that it wants to take your property.
- The entity proposing to take your property must make a bona fide effort to negotiate to buy the property before it files a lawsuit to condemn the property – which means the condemning entity must make a good faith offer that conforms within Titles 27 and 66 of the Oklahoma Statutes.
- You may hire an appraiser or other professional to determine the value of your property or to assist you in any condemnation proceeding.
- You may hire an attorney to negotiate with the condemning entity and to represent you in any legal proceedings involving the condemnation.
- Before your property is condemned, you are entitled to a copy of the commissioners’ report which determines the injury you may sustain by the condemnation of your property and the amount of just compensation entitled to you.
- If you are unsatisfied with the compensation awarded by the commissioners’ report, or if you question whether the taking of your property was proper, you have the right to a trial by a jury or review by the district court judge. If you are dissatisfied with the trial court’s judgment, you may appeal that decision.
Make sure to require termination rights
When a other people put stuff on your property, it creates “burden”. An easement is a burden that is attached to your land. That burden can come in the form of limitations on use, taxes, risks, and liabilities. Do you know what those risks are? Do you know how to terminate the easement if the easement owner doesn’t observe the terms of the agreement?
Hiring a lawyer and legal fees
A seasoned and skilled lawyer can often insert favorable terms far beyond the money offered for the easement. Those favorable terms, can sometimes equal or exceed thousands of dollars. Long term easements will impact your land for future generations. Hiring a skilled lawyer is like insurance. And insurance is like a parachute, you may not need it but one time, and if you need it you sure want it strapped to your back!
I charge a flat rate to review an easement under 10 pages. I will provide you with comments on both the good and the bad. If you decide to go further, we agree up front the value of my time to walk you through the process. You can involve me as little or as much as you desire.
Dealing with pipelines, towers, and other easement agreements can be difficult for many landowners. Michael McCann is an experienced attorney that can help analyze the complex situations with the land use issues to help you achieve your goals and ensure success. If you need assistance with your easement call McCann Law at (918) 216-0825 or request a consultation today. I look forward to hearing from you!