What is encumbrance in real estate?

What is encumbrance in real estate?


Encumbrance in real estate refers to any claim, liability, or restriction that affects the ownership or transferability of a property. These encumbrances can have a significant impact on the value and use of real estate assets. Understanding the various types of encumbrances is crucial for both buyers and sellers in real estate transactions.

Types of Encumbrances

Mortgages: One of the most common types of encumbrances is a mortgage. When a property is mortgaged, it serves as collateral for a loan. The mortgage holder, usually a bank or financial institution, has a claim on the property until the loan is fully repaid. This encumbrance can restrict the owner’s ability to sell or transfer the property without satisfying the mortgage obligation.

Liens: Liens are legal claims against a property to secure the payment of a debt. They can arise from unpaid taxes, unpaid contractor fees, or judgments in lawsuits. Liens can be placed by government agencies, contractors, or other parties with a legal right to claim the property’s value. Until the lien is satisfied, the property owner may face restrictions on selling or refinancing the property.

Easements: Easements grant a specific right to use or access a portion of a property by someone who is not the owner. Common examples include utility easements, which allow utility companies to access and maintain their infrastructure on private property. Easements can also be granted for access roads, shared driveways, or rights of way. While easements do not transfer ownership, they can restrict the owner’s full use of the property.

Covenants: Covenants are restrictions placed on a property by a previous owner or a homeowners’ association. These restrictions can dictate how the property is used, what modifications can be made, and even the appearance of the property. Common examples include restrictions on building height, architectural style, or the prohibition of certain activities. Covenants are typically recorded in the property’s deed and can have long-lasting effects on its use and value.

Restrictive Covenants: Similar to covenants, restrictive covenants impose limitations on the use of a property. However, they are typically associated with specific purposes, such as preserving the character of a neighborhood or protecting natural resources. For example, a restrictive covenant may prohibit the construction of buildings over a certain height to preserve scenic views. These encumbrances are often voluntary and can be enforced by homeowners’ associations or other entities.

Impact on Real Estate

Encumbrances can have a significant impact on the value and marketability of real estate. Properties with multiple encumbrances may be less attractive to potential buyers, as they may face restrictions on use or have limited options for financing. Additionally, encumbrances can affect the property’s market value, as potential buyers may factor in the costs or limitations associated with the encumbrances.

It is essential for buyers to conduct thorough due diligence before purchasing a property to identify any existing encumbrances. This can involve reviewing public records, title searches, and obtaining a property survey. Sellers, on the other hand, should disclose any known encumbrances to potential buyers to avoid legal issues in the future.


Encumbrances in real estate encompass a wide range of claims, liabilities, and restrictions that can impact property ownership and transferability. Mortgages, liens, easements, covenants, and restrictive covenants are common examples of encumbrances that can affect the value and use of real estate assets. Understanding these encumbrances is crucial for both buyers and sellers in real estate transactions to ensure informed decision-making.


– Investopedia: www.investopedia.com/real-estate-encumbrance-4769725
– The Balance: www.thebalance.com/what-is-an-encumbrance-in-real-estate-4773055
– Legal Dictionary: www.legaldictionary.net/encumbrance