New legislation clarifies legal standing of easements and servitudes on single-owner properties

by | Jun 27, 2024



Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation clarifying the legal standing of easements and servitudes on property owned by a single entity, ensuring such arrangements remain valid despite recent judicial challenges.


Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation on Wednesday designed to clarify the legal standing of easements and servitudes created on property owned by a single entity.

House Bill 799, introduced by Rep. William Robinson and passed with near-unanimous support in the Florida House of Representatives, permits property owners to create easements, servitudes, or other interests in their property, even if they own all the affected land. The bill solidifies the legal foundation for property use agreements often employed by developers before subdividing and selling parcels of land.

Easements and servitudes are legal arrangements that allow someone to use part of another person’s property for a specific purpose, even though they don’t own it. For example, an easement might let a neighbor drive across your land to reach their house. Servitudes can also include rules or obligations tied to the property, like maintaining a shared driveway or restricting certain types of building.

The meaure’s passage serves as a response to recent judicial interpretations that challenged the validity of easements created when one owner holds all affected parcels. This judicial shift threatened to disrupt longstanding land use planning and the expectations of property owners who relied on these servitudes to maintain shared infrastructure and community amenities.

“In Florida it has been the custom of developers and other persons intending to divide property which they currently own to first create servitudes upon the affected real property before its division and sale. It has also been common practice for such persons to record real covenants in the public records of the state before the first sale of any portion of the affected property. In some instances, the establishment of servitudes before the property’s division is mandated by land planning entities to further their land planning schemes,” the bill’s legislative analysis states. “However, recent Florida case law has called into question the validity of easements, and by extension other servitudes, contained in a written instrument, if such easements were created at a time when all of the affected property was held in common ownership.”

By codifying the ability to establish such property interests, the new law ensures that pre-existing easements and servitudes remain valid unless invalidated by a court for reasons other than the unity of title. This legislative action provides reassurance to developers and property owners that their planning and investments will be upheld, thereby promoting stability in real estate transactions and land use planning.

The bill also articulates the Legislature’s intent to respect the original intentions of property agreements made prior to the law’s enactment.

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