Easement is roughly defined as “permission to get access to” something. Whether it’s your spouse, or utilities, or a neighbor’s adjoining property…you’ll have to get permission first to access their “private” property.
All kidding aside about your spouse’s or partner’s permission, which isn’t called “easement” but perhaps “uneasement” if trespassing…
4-16-2014: Here’s a case where certain rights and duties were implied and someone refused to comply resulting in an expensive lawsuit.
Utility easements grant the right to a utility company (electric, gas, water, cable, phone, etc,.) to enter your real property to repair or provide service to you and your neighbors. They normally run underground so when you plan to landscape or dig into your yard, it’s wise to call a Utilities Protection Center in your area (in Atlanta you call 811 before you dig) and they should come out at no charge to draw lines in your yard indicating where utilities are running so you don’t get “surprised” with a huge repair bill!
Negotiated easements are when the owners of two or more adjoining properties need access to each others property. For instance people who own properties that border a lake give easement to the lake for other neighbors. Or one property which is landlocked and has no access to a road without driving over another person’s property is usually granted easement over the property that borders the road.
Easements are normally found on surveys and subdivision plats in your county records or the homeowner’s records. So be sure to ask for a copy of the survey in your offers and review it.
Make sure your title insurance provides coverage for any easements and if not, get the disputes resolved before closing – make your contract contingent on their resolution or provision.
Source article addressing more detail on express, implied and other easements: http://www.cdapress.com/real_estate/article_769840c2-a337-51f7-84c0-72df3929c506.html