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Prescription is the acquisition of an easement, over the property of another, through adverse use of that property. For example, a neighbor who has used your land to get to their backyard for the past 10 years may have an easement over your property.

Prescription is closely related to the doctrine of adverse possession, the differencing being that a prescriptive easement receives an easement in land that is still owned by another, while an adverse possessor receives title to the land.


A prescriptive easement is acquired through:

  1. Open and notorious use of another’s land. The claimant’s use of the land must be sufficiently visible and apparent that a diligent landowner present on the land at the time would discover it.
  2. Adverse to the rights of the landowner. The claimant’s use of the land must not be permissive. If the owner consents to the claimant’s use the of the land, then the use is permissive, not adverse.
  3. For a continuous and uninterrupted period (typically 10, traditionally 20 years). However, the term “continuous” is loosely interpreted here because many uses are not continuous in their nature.

[Last updated in August of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]