What Is Appurtenance? Definition, Uses in Real Estate and Example

What Is Appurtenance?

The term appurtenance refers to the attachment of a right or property to a more worthy principal. Put simply, appurtenance means that something legally belongs to another, larger, more valuable entity. It commonly occurs in real estate and applies to improvements or rights that come with a form of property. It occurs when the attachment becomes part of the property, such as a furnace or air conditioning unit in a house. Once attached or installed, it cannot be separated from the larger entity.


Understanding Appurtenance

Appurtenance is usually applicable to property rights or items that are permanent and passed along with the sale of a property. An appurtenance is a real property, which is defined as being immovable or fixed to the land. In this case, appurtenances relate to the land.

Appurtenants grant the ownership of certain items to a person who owns the property in legal transactions, such as the sale or transfer of a property. For example, once a tenant installs a new water tank in their apartment, they may not be able to remove the appurtenance because it is often considered part of the property as a whole.

In the 1919 case of Cohen v. Whitcomb, the Supreme Court of Minnesota defined appurtenance as “That which belongs to something else. Something annexed to another thing more worthy.” The case revolved around a debate about the ownership of a hot water heater installed at the property by the tenant. The lease stated that any repairs or improvements made by the tenant became part of the property and were, therefore, the landlord’s property.

This can also include in-ground swimming pools, fences, or sheds that are all fixed to the land. The term can also be used to describe the acreage behind a home. This plot of land, or the backyard, is generally viewed as being part of the property—an appurtenance of the house. Appurtenances also include rights to natural resources found in the land, such as water, minerals, or oil, as well as improvements to the property and easements.

Criteria for Appurtenance

If you’re still confused about what makes something appurtenant, this section tackles that topic. There are several requirements that something must fulfill in order to be considered an appurtenance. The following is a simple list of the criteria:

If you’re unsure about any part of the property in a real estate sale or transaction, be sure to ask what is and isn’t included. If the seller can’t take something with them, there’s a good chance it’ll be included in the transfer.

Appurtenant Easement

Appurtenant easements occur in real estate when one party allows another to use their property for a limited purpose. For instance, a homeowner may allow their neighbor to use a walkway on their property to access a community park. In this case, the one who allows the easement is known as the servient tenement estate while the one given the limited purpose is called the dominant tenement estate. This is the property that benefits from the easement.

These easements may come in many different forms, including:

There is also what’s called a prescriptive easement, which involves trespassing. The person doing the trespassing must do so openly and continually in order to claim an easement.

Why Appurtenance Matters

Appurtenance is a very important concept that all property owners should understand. But very few often do. So it’s a good idea to understand why it matters to any real estate transactions that you execute.

Most buyers look at properties and base their decisions on what to purchase and what to pass up based on certain characteristics. Remember, an appurtenant is something that is attached to or belongs to a piece of real estate. Some things naturally come with a home when you purchase it, such as doors, windows, kitchen cabinets, and the heating/cooling system. But there are other items that may not be included in the sale like window treatments that may not actually be installed.

You generally have a claim that something is appurtenant if the seller doesn’t agree but it meets the requirements listed above—if it’s considered a permanent part of the property, was installed using permanent methods, and its removal causes considerable property damage.

This is why it’s always in your best interests to ask about what is and isn’t included in your property. And if there is something you want to be included that isn’t, be sure to add a clause in your contract so there’s no problem in the future.

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