Addressing the 40-year Expiration of Access Easements in Wisconsin
Under current Wisconsin law (Wis. Stat. § 893.33), access easements automatically expire after 40 years unless renewed by re-recording the easements. The average Wisconsin property owner is completely unaware of the re-recording requirements and the automatic expiration of their easement. For property owners, sellers and buyers, it comes as a shock creating tremendous confusion and negatively impacting property values, to discover the easement providing access to the property has expired just as the property is going to be sold to a purchaser.
It is against public policy to have a law automatically terminate a previously negotiated contract between two parties simply because the agreement was not re-recorded after 40 years. As with other contracts, state law should not override agreements between two private parties. The presumption should be if the parties did not include an expiration date in the access easement, then the easement continues in perpetuity. Again, an automatic termination of access easements such as access to a landlocked parcel, hunting rights or lake access have a substantial impact on the value of property.
Wisconsin property owners would be better served with a simple exception from the statute, as is enjoyed by conservation easements, utilities and railroads easements, and interests of state and local governments.
The Wisconsin REALTORS® Association supports action by the state legislature in 2022 to amend Wis. Stat. § 893.33 to eliminate the statute of limitations for access easements. Like other contracts, critical real estate access easements establishing ingress and egress to property owners’ land would be honored as written and would not require re-recording after 40 years to remain in effect as intended.