Moving? Know the legal terms

Buying or selling a home is serious business. But if you keep yourself informed, you’ll be in control when it’s time to move.

Keep yourself up-to-date on the legal terms that apply to real estate transactions. The three major ones include:

    1) easement
    2) encroachment
    3) encumbrance


  • An easement is a right enjoyed by one landowner over the land of another. If there is an easement on a property, it must be noted in the listing and fully described in the deed and on the property survey.

Neighbours who share a mutual driveway, both have the right to use it, even though the property line may technically divide the driveway.


  • An encroachment is an unauthorized extension of the boundaries of the property. It can be as minor and unintentional as a fence wandering a few centimetres across a property line, only to be discovered during a proper survey.

An encroachment could also be more serious. For example, a neighbour builds a garage in the absence of a fence on their next door neighbour’s property.

While easements and encroachments may, in many cases, be of minor importance, encumbrances are usually worthy of more serious consideration.

  • An encumberance is an outstanding claim or lien against the property that has been legally registered. For example, a property owner had a contractor install a new bathroom and then, in a dispute, refused to pay the bill. The contractor might register a lien against the property pending payment. It would then be impossible for a buyer to obtain clear title to the home until that encumbrance is removed.

Fortunately, any registered encumbrances can easily be found during a title search. The buyer can then be certain that the title to the home is clear.

The legalities of a house sale transaction may seem complicated, but they help you avoid any unpleasant surprises after the fact.