A Stranger Barged onto My Property and Cut Down A Shrub

Butterfly BushA man drove up to our house, walked up our yard, cut down a part of our butterfly bush, tinkered with something inside of it, and then took off. He left behind the brush clippings, sticks, and broken limbs. We knew there was an AT&T Underground Cable utility pole inside the bush. The reason we planted the bush was to veil the pole’s presence. My wife asked me, “Can AT&T just cut down our bush?”

The right to exclude others from one’s property is recognized as one of the most essential “sticks in the bundle of rights” that are commonly characterized as “property.” But a property owner may choose to surrender a portion of the right to exclude by granting an easement.

An easement is a limited interest in land for a particular purpose. It does not confer the right to possess the property. Instead, it authorizes the person to whom the easement has been granted the authority to use the property for a specified reason. An easement holder generally has a right of unlimited, reasonable use of the easement consistent with its purpose. The person who owns the land that is subject to the easement may not interfere with the easement holder’s right to use the easement for its purpose.

Yes, AT&T can cut down our bush to access their easement. Perhaps they should have picked up the mess they left. But I’m thankful that the repairman chose to hack into the side of the bush least publicly visible. And I’m sure he’s grateful that we didn’t plant a rose bush there instead.

In our “Law 101″ posts, we define terms, phrases, or concepts with the goal of conveying core information in order to set the stage for more involved and complex discussions.

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