Drainage Easements

The county conducts drainage activities where there is a public benefit and where a public easement exists. Examples include a ditch draining a public road or county property. Easements are very common. Most urban and many rural properties are subject to easements, particularly for public utilities including stormwater drainage. Drainage easements may be public or private. Public easements are held by the county, while private easements are held by a private entity such as a neighborhood HOA (as illustrated in the following graphic).

An easement is a grant of one or more property rights by a property owner to another person or entity. This agreement does not confer ownership but rather confers the right to use a landowner’s property in some specific way. Drainage easements allow the County to perform maintenance and make repairs to drainage structures, as necessary. The property owner maintains ownership and also retains responsibility for normal care and maintenance. For example, the County will remove a blockage in the ditch, but will not remove a standing tree on a ditch bank.

Easements are usually registered on the certificate of title to the property and “run with the land”, being automatically transferred from one owner to another as the land is sold. The County does not typically pay for easements or road right-of-ways. The landowner granting the easement will receive a nominal payment ($1.00 minimum) or other valuable consideration to make the agreement legal.

Typically, location of buildings and some accessory structures within an easement is prohibited. Landowners should consult the County prior to undertaking any construction or alteration to their property if they think an easement may exist.

There are four ways to determine the location of an easement. First, a survey plan may be on file at the Register of Deeds office . Second, the easement may be a written document which in words describes the location of the easement on your property. In addition, the easement document may be accompanied by a sketch showing the location of the easement that you may have received at property closing. Third, a landowner can consult the holder of the easement or, fourth, have the boundaries and easements identified by a Registered Land Surveyor, licensed in South Carolina.

Drainage problems on private property that have been caused by actions on neighboring property, such as fill, timbering, or ditching, are private legal matters that must be resolved by the parties involved or by legal action.