Define: Floating Easement

Floating Easement
Floating Easement
Quick Summary of Floating Easement

A floating easement is a type of easement that allows for flexibility in its location. It is not tied to a specific area of land, but rather can be moved or adjusted as needed. This type of easement is often used for utilities or infrastructure projects where the exact location may need to change over time.

Full Definition Of Floating Easement

In British property law, easements are a crucial aspect of land ownership, providing rights over the land of another. A traditional easement is a non-possessory interest in another’s property, granting the holder certain usage rights. Floating easements, a less conventional form, are characterized by their lack of fixed location on the servient tenement. This legal overview examines the concept, characteristics, legal recognition, and implications of floating easements within the British legal framework.

Definition and Characteristics

A floating easement is an easement that lacks a specific, defined location on the servient land. Unlike traditional easements, which are fixed and identifiable, floating easements afford flexibility, allowing the easement’s location to shift or be determined at a later time. Key characteristics of floating easements include:

  1. Indefinite Location: The precise path or area over which the easement is exercised is not fixed at the time of creation. It is subject to future determination based on necessity or mutual agreement.
  2. Flexibility: Floating easements are adaptable, accommodating changes in the servient land’s use and conditions. This adaptability can be beneficial in dynamic property settings.
  3. Potential for Disputes: The lack of a defined location can lead to disputes between the dominant and servient tenement owners, particularly regarding the extent and manner of easement exercise.

Legal Recognition

The recognition and enforceability of floating easements in British law have been subjects of legal scrutiny. The principle contention revolves around the certainty required for an easement to be valid. The Law of Property Act 1925 (LPA 1925) and subsequent case law provide the legal framework for evaluating floating easements.

Common Law Requirements: For an easement to be valid, common law typically demands:

  • A dominant and servient tenement.
  • The easement must accommodate the dominant tenement.
  • The dominant and servient owners must be different persons.
  • The right must be capable of forming the subject matter of a grant.

Certainty Principle: The certainty principle mandates that the extent and scope of an easement must be clear. This requirement often poses challenges for floating easements. The landmark case Re Ellenborough Park [1956] established that easements must have a certain and defined location, raising questions about the validity of floating easements.

Judicial Interpretation: British courts have approached floating easements with caution. In Miller v. Emcer Products Ltd [1956], the court held that an easement must be specific and ascertainable. However, exceptions exist where the courts have allowed some degree of flexibility, provided there is a mechanism for determining the easement’s location with reasonable certainty.

Creation and Types of Floating Easements

Floating easements can be created through various mechanisms, including express grants, implied grants, and prescriptions.

  1. Express Grants: Parties may explicitly agree to a floating easement through a deed or written agreement. The terms of the grant should outline the conditions under which the easement’s location will be determined.
  2. Implied Grants: In some instances, floating easements can arise by implication, particularly when the dominant tenement’s use necessitates a right over the servient land. Courts may infer such easements based on the circumstances and necessity.
  3. Prescription: Although rare, floating easements can also be established through long-term, continuous use. The usage must be as of right, without permission, and exercised over a sufficient period, typically 20 years.

Types of floating easements include:

  1. Right of Way: This is the most common type of floating easement, allowing the dominant tenement owner to traverse the servient land without a fixed path.
  2. Drainage and Utilities: Easements for drainage or utility access can be floating if the exact location of pipes or cables is undetermined initially.
  3. Parking Rights: Parking easements can be floating, permitting the dominant owner to park vehicles within a general area on the servient land, with the specific spot varying.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Floating easements offer both advantages and disadvantages to landowners.


  • Flexibility: Adaptable to changes in land use and circumstances.
  • Future-proofing: Useful in developments where future land configurations are uncertain.
  • Maximizing Land Use: Allows servient landowners to use their property more efficiently without being constrained by fixed easements.


  • Potential for Disputes: Lack of a fixed location can lead to conflicts over easement exercise.
  • Uncertainty: Can create uncertainty for both dominant and servient owners, impacting land value and development.
  • Legal Challenges: May face challenges regarding validity and enforceability under strict common law requirements.

Case Law and Judicial Attitudes

Several key cases illustrate the judicial attitude towards floating easements:

  1. Re Ellenborough Park [1956]**: This case emphasized the need for certainty in easements, casting doubt on the validity of floating easements. The court required that easements must be clear and specific to be enforceable.
  2. Miller v. Emcer Products Ltd [1956]**: The court reiterated the need for a specific and ascertainable easement, limiting the scope for floating easements unless they could be defined with reasonable certainty.
  3. Wright v. Macadam [1949]**: In this case, the court allowed a degree of flexibility, recognizing an easement for coal storage in a shed without specifying the exact area. This case demonstrates that while strict, the courts can exercise some discretion in accommodating practical needs.

Practical Implications

For practitioners and landowners, floating easements present several practical considerations:

  1. Drafting Agreements: When creating floating easements, it is essential to include clear mechanisms for determining the easement’s location. This can involve specifying conditions, procedures, or criteria for establishing the easement area.
  2. Land Registration: Floating easements should be carefully registered with the Land Registry, ensuring that all relevant details and conditions are recorded. This helps in avoiding future disputes and providing clarity to subsequent purchasers.
  3. Dispute Resolution: Given the potential for disputes, parties should consider including dispute resolution mechanisms in their agreements. Mediation or arbitration clauses can provide a structured process for resolving conflicts over easement exercise.
  4. Impact on Land Value: Floating easements can impact land value, particularly for the servient tenement. Landowners should assess the implications on property valuation and potential restrictions on future development.

Legislative Developments

While floating easements remain a contentious area, legislative developments may impact their recognition and enforceability. Reforms aimed at modernizing property law and addressing practical land use challenges could influence how floating easements are treated. Legal practitioners and stakeholders should stay informed about potential changes in legislation and judicial interpretation.


Floating easements, while offering flexibility and adaptability, pose unique challenges in British property law. The requirement for certainty and specificity often conflicts with the inherent nature of floating easements. Judicial attitudes have generally favoured fixed and ascertainable easements, although exceptions exist where practical necessity dictates. For landowners and legal practitioners, understanding the nuances of floating easements is crucial for effective land use planning, dispute resolution, and compliance with legal requirements. As property law evolves, the treatment of floating easements will likely continue to develop, balancing flexibility with the need for certainty and clarity in land rights.

Floating Easement FAQ'S

A floating easement is a type of easement that allows for the use of another person’s property for a specific purpose, but without a fixed location or specific boundaries. It grants the right to use the property in a flexible manner, depending on the needs of the easement holder.

Unlike a regular easement, which typically has fixed boundaries and specific locations, a floating easement does not have a defined area. It allows for the use of the property wherever it is necessary or convenient for the easement holder.

Common examples of floating easements include rights of way for utilities, such as power lines or pipelines, that may need to be relocated or adjusted based on changing circumstances or technological advancements.

A floating easement is typically created through a written agreement between the property owner and the easement holder. This agreement outlines the terms and conditions of the easement, including the purpose, duration, and any necessary compensation.

Yes, a floating easement can be terminated if both parties agree to do so or if certain conditions specified in the easement agreement are met. It is important to review the terms of the agreement to understand the circumstances under which the easement can be terminated.

In most cases, a floating easement can be transferred to another party with the consent of the property owner. However, it is important to review the terms of the easement agreement to determine if any restrictions or conditions apply to the transfer.

In some cases, a property owner may have the right to modify or restrict a floating easement if it is causing undue burden or interference with their property rights. However, this would typically require a legal process and may involve negotiations with the easement holder.

The expansion or reduction of a floating easement would generally require the agreement of both parties involved. If the easement agreement does not specifically address this issue, it may be necessary to negotiate and modify the agreement to reflect any changes in the scope of the easement.

Yes, a floating easement can be challenged in court if there is a dispute between the property owner and the easement holder regarding the interpretation or enforcement of the easement agreement. It is advisable to seek legal counsel to navigate such disputes.

If a floating easement is violated, the aggrieved party may seek legal remedies, such as injunctive relief or monetary damages, depending on the specific circumstances and the terms of the easement agreement.

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 9th June 2024.

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