Conservation or preservation easements are common tools for protecting historic properties in North America, though program specifics vary considerably. In Newfoundland and Labrador easements are both a way for heritage property owners to protect a Registered Heritage Structure in perpetuity and a requirement for receiving Restoration Grant funding. Heritage NL holds more than 100 easements on designated properties across the province.
What is a conservation easement?
A conservation easement is a binding legal agreement between an organization (Heritage NL) and a property owner executed to ensure the ongoing conservation of an historic property. A conservation easement runs with the property and applies to both the signing owner(s) and all subsequent owners of the property.
A conservation easement comes with responsibilities for both parties. Among other terms property owners are responsible for maintaining their structures according to Heritage NL policies, holding insurance on the property, and consulting Heritage NL on any changes. Heritage NL is responsible for actively monitoring the condition of easement properties and supporting their ongoing conservation through a number of means.
An easement does not preclude the owner of a Registered Heritage property from making changes to a designated structure in the way of additions or upgrades as long as any changes respect heritage values, comply with national standards, and are approved by Heritage NL.
Can an easement be removed?
Heritage NL’s easements are perpetual and can only be removed in exceptional circumstances. For this reason owners who enter into an easement are responsible for reviewing and fully understanding its implications. Buyers of easement properties are likewise expected to review the easement prior to purchase and are encouraged to contact Heritage NL and counsel in order to fully understand their obligations.
Does an easement affect my ability to sell my property?
An easement does not restrict transfer or use of a property but does limit changes to and preclude demolition of any designated structures. Prospective buyers must be willing to accept the terms of the easement and commit to ongoing stewardship of the property.
How are Heritage NL’s easements different from those in other jurisdictions?
There are several differences between Heritage NL’s easements and those found in other jurisdictions. These include:
- Easements are not donated to or purchased by Heritage NL but are a condition of receiving restoration funding (a Restoration Grant).
- Heritage NL bears all costs for registering and administering easements. Property owners are responsible for costs related to third-party review of an easement or having the agreement witnessed by a qualified individual.
Under an easement am I required to allow public access to my home or other building?
There are no requirements for public access to easement properties in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Are there any tax or other financial benefits to owning an easement property?
Easement properties are eligible for renewable maintenance funding from Heritage NL starting five years from the receipt of the first Restoration Grant.
There are no legislated tax or other benefits for entering into an easement or owning an easement property in Newfoundland and Labrador. Owners are encouraged to discuss any financial implications with a professional.
What are the terms of Heritage NL’s easements?
Easements require, among other things, that property owners maintain their designated properties according to national and provincial standards, consult Heritage NL before making any changes to designated structures/features, and hold appropriate insurance to protect against their loss.
For a copy of a draft easement agreement including all standard terms see: DRAFT EASEMENT AGREEMENT