To most people the word servitude conjures images of slavery, although thankfully that way of life is long gone! In Scotland, however, a servitude is a right over a piece of land (the burdened property) for the benefit of another (the benefitted property). This longstanding concept is still very much relevant today.
What does that really mean?
A servitude can give someone else rights over your property. Conversely, it can give you rights over a property belonging to someone else. Common examples of servitudes include:
- right of access to property
- right of drainage and/or sewage
- right to draw water from a private water supply
Why are servitudes relevant?
Servitudes can affect any type of property whether it be residential, commercial or an undeveloped plot of land so they must be considered in any property transaction.
When acquiring a property or piece of land it is important to have peace of mind that you have the necessary rights to use and enjoy it without dispute or interference. Similarly, you must be sure that nobody else has rights over your property that could be detrimental to you. The existence or lack of servitudes could have serious implications.
Imagine, for example, that you were to purchase a rural plot of land for development. If that plot happened to have no direct access road, you would need a right of access across your neighbours' land in order to use your property. If a relevant servitude did not permit this you could be unable to develop or use your property at all. This could negatively affect the value and potential of the property.
Conversely, if you were to acquire property which was affected by a right of access servitude, this could cause significant disruption to you, particularly in a development situation like the one described above.
In order to avoid problems like this, your solicitor must check the position regarding servitudes as part of the residential or commercial conveyancing process and advise you accordingly. Bear in mind that it is possible for servitudes to be created and extinguished through use and non-use respectively, meaning this issue may not be as clear-cut as it might first seem!
Could your potential purchase be affected by this important issue? For more information or advice on what does a servitude mean in Scotland, please get in touch with our experienced property team.