Easements 101

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Easements may burden or benefit a parcel of real estate. In either event, easements may affect the value and use of the land. For this reason, it is important to consider whether the property is either burdened or benefitted by an easement. This article will discuss the different types of easements and the ways in which easements can be created and terminated; it will also discuss title company requirements for insuring easements.

An easement is a right acquired by a landowner to use the land of another for a special purpose.  This right may be for such purposes as access, driveway, party wall, drainage, public utilities and other purposes. Easements are divided into 2 general categories: an appurtenant easement or an easement in gross.

An appurtenant easement operates for the benefit of one tract of land and burdens another, usually adjoining tract. Thus, there must be two tracts of land owned by different parties, that is, a separation of title. The benefitted parcel is referred to as the dominant estate (or dominant tenement), and the burdened parcel is referred to as the servient estate (or servient tenement). Because an appurtenant easement is regarded as being so closely connected to the dominant tenement, it is regarded as “running with the land”. This means that once the easement has been properly created, the easement will pass upon a conveyance of the dominant tenement to the grantee of the deed, even if the deed does not mention it.

An easement in gross does not specifically benefit another parcel of land. It runs in favor of a party who does not own the property adjoining the easement. A utility easement given to a utility company such as the phone, gas, cable or electrical company is the most common type of easement in gross. Easements in gross may not be considered interests in real property; they are generally not insured by title companies.

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Karlen’s Korner Special Edition: A Bleachers Story

By Douglas M. Karlen, Regional Counsel, Chicago Title Insurance Company

If at first you don’t succeed (in the courts), try, try again (in the legislature). This is the story of the Crystal Lake South bleachers. The question decided in this story is: do municipal zoning ordinances govern a school district’s construction of football stadium bleachers on school property? The courts said “yes;” the General Assembly subsequently said “yes, but . . .”

The campus of the Crystal Lake South High School occupies land that adjoins residential properties in the home rule city of Crystal Lake. The residences and the campus are zoned R-2 Single Family Residences. The school constitutes a nonconforming use permitted to continue under Crystal Lake’s zoning ordinances.

In 2013, the Board of Education that operates the high school decided to replace the bleachers at the football stadium. The Board’s plan placed the new home bleachers adjacent to the neighboring residential properties and called for the new bleachers to be larger, higher, and closer to the residences than the existing bleachers. The Board obtained approval and a building permit from the McHenry County Regional Superintendant of Schools and began work on the project without notifying Crystal Lake or seeking a building permit or zoning approval. Crystal Lake ordered the Board to stop construction until it obtained a special use permit and zoning variances. The Board ignored the order and completed the bleachers project.

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Karlen’s Korner Special Edition: A Revised Limited Liability Act

By Douglas M. Karlen, Regional Counsel, Chicago Title Insurance Company

On July 28, 2016, Governor Rauner signed into law a massive re-write of the Limited Liability Company Act, 805 ILCS 180/1-1 et seq. See Public Act 99-637 (HB 4361), effective July 1, 2017.  This comprehensive revision of the Limited Liability Company Act (LLC Act) is based in large part on the Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act, a model act written by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.  Although P.A. 99-637 amends many sections of the LLC Act merely to match the language of the model act, the new law makes some substantive changes and adds some new concepts.  Attorneys who intend to form limited liability companies and draft operating agreements and related documents should study all 112 pages of P.A. 99-637.  For a starting point in analyzing the new law, practitioners may consult M. Hector, Proposed legislation makes sweeping changes to the Illinois LLC Act, July 2016 Illinois Bar Journal, Vol. 104., pp. 12-13.  The following provisions of the new law should be of interest to real estate practitioners.

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An Introduction to the 2016 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys



The ALTA/NSPS Liaison Committee (consisting of both the American Land Title Association and the National Society of Professional Surveyors) has approved modifications to the 2011 version of the Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys. The new version will be referred to as the 2016 Standards.

These standards will be effective on February 23, 2016. Why was this date chosen? In ancient Roman religion, Terminus was the god who protected boundary markers. The name “Terminus” was the Latin word for a boundary marker. On February 23rd, Roman landowners celebrated a festival called the “Terminalia” in honor of Terminus.

This article is intended to provide a broad overview of those changes to the land title survey standards that will be of the most significance to the title insurance industry and real estate practitioners.

A complete copy of the 2016 Standards can be found HERE.

It is suggested that you print out a copy and follow along as the sections are discussed below:

Section 5 Fieldwork

Section 5 of the 2016 Standards generally concerns the fieldwork of the surveyor.

Section 5.B.ii. Rights of Way and Access

Section 5.B.ii. of the 2011 Standards imposed a duty on the surveyor to show the “width and location of the traveled way.” Under the 2016 Standards, this amended section now requires the land surveyor to also show “the location of each edge of the traveled way” unless there is no access from the land to said traveled way. In addition, the 2016 Standards include a reference to divided streets and highways.

The term “traveled way” is a term of art, used in many court decisions. It has been defined as “the portion of the roadway used for movement of through traffic.”

In other words, although a plat of a residential subdivision may indicate that the dedicated roads have a width of 50 feet, the distance from one edge of the surface of the asphalt to the opposite edge of the asphalt may be only 29 feet. The land surveyor will have to show both widths—the width of the dedicated road and also the width of the asphalt—on the plat of survey.

This additional information should be helpful to those trying to determine access to a particular parcel of land, including curb cuts.

Section 5.B.ii. of the 2016 Standards is as follows. The italicized words are new.

The name of any street, highway or other public or private way abutting the surveyed property, together with the width of the traveled way and the location of each edge of the traveled way including on divided streets and highways. If the documents provided to or obtained by the surveyor pursuant to Section 4 indicate no access from the surveyed property to the abutting street or highway, the width and location of the traveled way need not be located.

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#CTtalk: Limited Liability Companies in Illinois

By Ann E. Minarik
Assistant Vice President and Commercial Counsel
Chicago Title Insurance Company, Chicago NCS



Illinois was the 18th state in the Union to adopt a version of the limited liability company concept. The original Illinois Limited Liability Company Act (“ILLCA”) [1] took effect as of January 1, 1994. Since 1994, all 50 states have enacted similar legislation. The ILLCA is by no means a carbon copy of any other state’s version, and revisions to ILLCA, effective January 1, 1998, affect all Illinois limited liability companies (“LLC”) as of January 1, 2000. The most noteworthy revisions regard (1) permitting almost perpetual life for LLCs, (2) authorizing single-member LLCs and (3) permitting the conversion and merger of LLCs and other entities.

Illinois real estate practitioners have embraced the LLC concept, and the popularity of LLCs has grown steadily every year since 1994. A high percentage of commercial real estate transactions in which the parties would customarily have conveyed the land into land trusts, corporations or partnerships are increasingly using existing or newly-created LLCs. From a title company’s perspective, it is common to see single-purpose LLCs formed. An example of this is an LLC with a name bearing a property address, with the sole purpose of this LLC to acquire and manage this particular real estate. Members and managers of this single-purpose LLC may be members and managers of other similar single-purpose LLCs.

What is an LLC and what makes it so popular? How does it differ from corporations and partnerships, since it appears to be a blend of both? An LLC is an unincorporated entity and offers its members (with some exceptions) protection from personal liability for a debt, obligation, or liability of the LLC solely by being or acting as a member or manager.[2] Another attractive feature is favorable tax treatment. Although an LLC may elect to be taxed as a corporation, most LLCs are “pass through” entities. Typically, a multiple member LLC is treated for tax purposes, like a partnership with members paying federal taxes, and no federal tax owed by the LLC.[3] A single member LLC can be treated, for tax purposes, as a “disregarded entity,” with all tax ramifications reported by the sole member. LLCs offer flexibility in operation in that they may be managed by members, designated managers, or a combination of both.

Formation of an LLC

When a new LLC is created, a document called Articles of Organization must be executed and filed with the Illinois Secretary of State’s office along with the appropriate filing fee. The Secretary of State’s form LLC-5.5 must be used. Articles of Organization contain information about the name, principal place of business, purpose of the LLC and the name of the registered agent. The LLC must contain one of the following designations in its name: (1) LLC (2) L.L.C. or (3) Limited Liability Company. [1]   The LLC name cannot contain any word or abbreviation that confuses the LLC with any other type of entity such as (1) Corporation (2) Corp. (3) Incorporated (4) Inc. (5) Ltd (6) Co. (7) Limited Partnership or (8) L.P. The person who executes and delivers the Articles of Organization is called the organizer. (9) Company, except as part of the phrase “Limited Liability Company.” As with corporations, the name of the LLC cannot be a duplicate of an existing LLC filed in Illinois. If the LLC anticipates extensive out-of-state contacts, whether through expected real estate ownership or as an ongoing business, it is prudent to search the Secretary of State’s records in these other states to make sure the same name is not already in use. A box must be checked on the second page of the Articles of Organization form as to whether LLC management is vested in the member(s) or in designated manager(s). The ILLCA does not require management by members. As a result, members can manage the LLC, or they can appoint outsiders to manage the LLC. ILLCA allows the filing of Articles of Amendment to the Articles of Organization at a later time as needed.

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Important Changes to the City of Chicago Transfer Stamp Purchases & Penalties

Effective January 1, 2016, all City of Chicago transfer stamp purchases will be handled within MyDec, the online stamp purchasing website, established by the State of Illinois.

Paper forms will no longer be accepted by the City of Chicago. State of Illinois & County transfer tax forms are not affected by this change.

As of January 1, MyDec will automatically assess applicable interest and late penalty charges on the declaration at the time Chicago transfer stamps are purchased when payment for the stamps is made more than 7 days after the date of the transfer in question. Apparently, MyDec is now programmed to compare the date entered in Section 4, question 1“The earlier of the Date of Transfer or Date of Recording” field to the date stamps are purchased and, if the difference is greater than 7 days, charge interest and late penalty accordingly. Inquiries regarding this process or requests for penalty abatement for reasonable cause should be directed to taxpolicy@cityofchicago.org.

The other requirements for purchasing a Chicago transfer stamp do not appear to have been changed. All transfers as defined under the City Ordinance will still require a Full Payment Certificate (“FPC”) to be issued by the Chicago Water Department. Applications for an FPC will take a minimum of 10 business days for processing, and an FPC is good for 60 days for the authorization date listed on the processed FPC.

One of the following will be required to ensure a complete application:

  1. A copy of the Deed for the intended transaction (must be submitted if requesting an FPC for a tax exempt transaction)
  2. Title Commitment Schedule A
  3. Signed Sales Contract

Click here to access the FPC Applications.

Please keep this information in mind when you are preparing to close your next transaction for property in Chicago. If there will be any delay in the purchase of the transfer stamp the penalty and interest may be charged and should be considered at the time the stamp is ready for purchase. If the delay is a result of an issue with receipt of an FPC please contact one of Chicago Title’s Underwriters.

We strongly encourage you to contact our office with any questions or concerns. We will be happy to share with you any knowledge we have about the aforementioned penalty and interest scenario as well as discuss potential solutions to avoid the possible imposition of such penalties and interest.

Here you can find the full version of the Code referred to in this CT News Brief.