Easements in Japan

Easements can exist for variety of reasons, such as to provide access to land that is cut off from the road, to protect views and sunlight, for overhead power lines, and agricultral irrigation. The land does not have to be adjoining for an easement to be established.

Easements can be granted with a signed agreement between the two landowners. To claim an easement against a third party, the easement will usually need to be registered.

Additionally, the owner of a landlocked block of land has the legal right to create an easement to the nearest road without requiring the permission of the neighboring landowner. The easement must follow the path to the nearest road that causes the least effect on the land it is crossing. Usually that means the shortest route.

The fees for having an easement are entirely up to the two parties to decide in the contract. It is possible for both parties to agree to no compensation or fees. There are, however, some cases where the landlocked owner must pay compensation to the neighbor when forcefully creating an easement.

When buying land be sure to check if there are any known easements. If problems arise later with a neighbor claiming an easement, it may have to be resolved in court. Take a good look at the land in person and look for anything like pathways or gates on the property that might be used by neighbors, and any landlocked neighbors that may need to pass through the property to access a road. If there is an unregistered easement in place, ask that the seller and neighbor draw up a contract and register the easement prior to the sale. This will help protect you from any disputes in the future. If you buy land with an easement on it, you must continue to honor the agreement established by the previous landowners – you cannot prevent access.

Easements are covered by the Civil Code. This code does not specify how wide an easement must be for residential use, it must simply be wide enough to allow a person to use it. This may sometimes be interpreted as a width of between 0.9 ~ 1 meter, which is less than the minimum 2 meter width required under the Building Standards Act. If land has a street frontage of less than 2 meters, it is typically not possible to rebuild on that lot without special permission.