Living in the vibrant city of Austin, you may have encountered a common misconception – the belief that easements granted by the city in front of your home equate to city-owned property. This misunderstanding often leads to conflicts and misunderstandings, especially when it comes to issues like parking or land usage. In this blog, we’ll explore the important distinction between easements granted by the City of Austin and privately-owned property in Texas.
Why it matters to us?
We at Adam Timothy Group are very focused on supporting our clients and friends in making sound decisions on their property investments. More importantly, we love people. And we want to encourage a safe and supportive environment.
Adam spoke to a neighbor recently. She is in her 80s and has lived in the McKinley Heights neighborhood for six decades. She told Adam about a lawn care service provider in our vendor guide that had been disrespectful to her. He had parked in front of her home, blocking the path from her front door to the street. When she confronted him, the lawn servicer put his foot up on the section of the land just beyond the curb and said “this is the city’s [land] and I can park here.” He left his trailer parked there and proceeded to do lawn work next door. Leaving the path providing access to an ambulance for emergencies involving this octogenarian blocked so the relatively new build next door could be serviced.
Editor’s note: the vendor has been removed from our guide.
Before we delve into the specifics, it’s essential to understand what an easement is. An easement is a legal right to use someone else’s land for a specific purpose without possessing it. Easements are granted for various reasons, such as public utilities, drainage, or access to public roads. In the context of Austin, these easements are granted by the City of Austin to ensure public safety and facilitate necessary infrastructure developments.
Private Property Ownership in Texas
Contrary to the misconception, Texas is home to a vast majority of privately-owned properties. Approximately 93% of land in Texas is privately owned, reinforcing the fact that most of the land in the state is under private ownership. This includes the land in front of your home, which you own.
The City’s Right to Use Easements
While the land in front of your home may have an easement, it doesn’t mean the city owns it. Easements granted by the city provide them with a specific right – like access for maintenance or emergency services – but they do not transfer ownership. This means that while the city has certain rights to use that portion of your property for designated purposes, it remains your property.
Implications for Land Usage and Parking
One common source of frustration arises when people believe they can use the land in front of your home for parking or other activities because it’s “city property.” Since Public Roadways are just that, “public,” no one has the right to reserve spaces in front of his or her house. However, while it is not illegal to park in front of someone else’s house, it is certainly inconsiderate. While it might be strange, AND BEYOND ANNOYING IF IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME, to have someone parked in front of your house, according to Texas law it is not illegal. Just be considerate on either side. If you’re parking in front of someone’s house, try to wave or acknowledge the owner if you see them. If you’re the homeowner, try to make contact with the vehicle owner if you know there might be an issue. And check with a neighbor before calling a tow truck.
In Austin, as in much of Texas, the majority of land is privately owned, even if the city holds easements for specific purposes. Understanding the difference between easements and city-owned property is crucial for resolving disputes and maintaining harmonious relationships with neighbors. So, the next time you hear someone claiming the right to use your property because it’s “city property,” you can confidently clarify the distinction and assert your rights as a property owner in the Lone Star State.