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Understanding Easements vs. Contracts in NSW Property Law

Question from lucy, Understanding Easements vs. Contracts in NSW Property Law

Answer from AI:

In New South Wales (NSW), Australia, property law encompasses various concepts that govern the use and ownership of land. Two key terms often encountered are easements and contracts. While both relate to rights over property, they serve different purposes and are governed by distinct legal principles. Understanding the differences between them is crucial for property owners, developers, and anyone involved in real estate transactions.

What is an Easement?

An easement is a right attached to a piece of land (the dominant tenement) that allows the holder to use another piece of land (the servient tenement) for a specific purpose. Easements are typically permanent and “run with the land,” meaning they are not tied to the individual who obtained them but continue to exist even when the property is sold to someone else.

Common types of easements include:

  • Right of way (allowing passage across a property)
  • Utility easements (for electricity, water, sewerage, and gas lines)
  • Light and air easements (preventing the construction of buildings that would block sunlight or airflow)

Easements are usually created by:

  1. A grant or reservation in a deed
  2. Implication (arising from circumstances, such as necessity)
  3. Prescription (through long-term use, similar to adverse possession)

What is a Contract?

A contract, in the context of property law, is an agreement between parties that creates obligations enforceable by law. Contracts can cover a wide range of matters, including the sale of land, lease agreements, and the provision of services related to property (such as construction or maintenance).

Contracts must meet certain criteria to be legally binding, including:

  • Offer and acceptance
  • Consideration (something of value exchanged between the parties)
  • Intention to create legal relations
  • Capacity to contract
  • Legality of purpose

Unlike easements, contracts are not necessarily permanent and are often tied to the parties involved rather than the property itself.

Key Differences Between Easements and Contracts


  • Are property rights that provide for specific use of land by someone other than the owner.
  • Are typically permanent and remain with the property when sold.
  • Do not require ongoing consent from the servient landowner once established.


  • Are agreements that create obligations between parties.
  • Can be temporary and are often specific to the parties involved.
  • Require mutual consent and consideration to be formed and can be terminated by agreement or upon fulfillment of the contract terms.

Legal Implications and Advice

Understanding the distinction between easements and contracts is crucial for anyone dealing with property transactions or disputes in NSW. Misunderstandings can lead to legal conflicts and financial losses. For instance, assuming rights over a property based on a contract that does not create an easement could result in the loss of those rights when the property is sold or the contract ends.

For specific situations, it’s essential to consult with a legal professional who can provide advice tailored to the circumstances. Legal advice is particularly important when:

  • Creating or negotiating easements and contracts
  • Resolving disputes related to property rights
  • Considering the sale or purchase of property with existing easements

For more information on property law in NSW, including easements and contracts, the NSW Legislation website and the LawAccess NSW are valuable resources.

Remember, this information provides a general overview and should not be taken as specific legal advice. Consulting a legal professional is strongly recommended for matters related to easements, contracts, and other property law issues in NSW.

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