As Rethos celebrated its 40th birthday last year, we wanted to draw attention to our oldest program: Easements. Since 1986, Rethos (then the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota), has held preservation easements on historic buildings in Minnesota. This preservation tool keeps buildings in good condition and prevents against demolition.
What is an Easement?
An easement is a restriction on the property that transfers the rights to certain features to another entity that isn’t the property owner. For old buildings, this pertains to certain aspects of the buildings design – like the building’s facade – but can also apply to the property’s landscape and the building’s interior. Preservation easements typically restrict certain activities on the property, for example, demolition of the building, storing of trash or debris, or any use that would alter the view or experience of the building’s architectural design. They are recorded with the title of the property and run with the land in perpetuity. The ultimate goal is to ensure that the certain values of the property are preserved and maintained as the property changes hands for (in theory) forever.
Why would someone want one?
Property owners are motivated to place easements on their property for several reasons. With the end goal to preserve the property in perpetuity, a property owner may want to ensure that their building is protected against development pressures where there aren’t any other protections. For example, a building that falls outside of a city with a historic preservation ordinance. Another scenario might be a homeowner who restored their house and wants to protect their work after they eventually sell their home. Additionally, certain tax advantages accompany the donation of an easement to a qualifying organization (like Rethos), where the value of the easement (as determined by an appraiser) can be taken as a tax deduction by the property owner.