Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 55.1. Property and Conveyances
Chapter 3. Form and Effect of Deeds and Covenants; Liens
12/1/2022

Article 1. Form and Effect of Deeds; Easements.

§ 55.1-300. Form of a deed.

Every deed and corrected or amended deed may be made in the following form, or to the same effect: "This deed, made the ______ day of ______, in the year ____, between (here insert names of parties as grantors or grantees), witnesseth: that in consideration of (here state the consideration, nominal or actual), the said ________ does (or do) grant (or grant and convey) unto the said ________, all (here describe the property or interest therein to be conveyed, including the name of the city or county in which the property is located, and insert covenants or any other provisions). Witness the following signature (or signatures)."

No deed recorded on or after July 1, 2020, shall contain a reference to the specific portion of a restrictive covenant purporting to restrict the ownership or use of the property as prohibited by subsection A of § 36-96.6. The clerk may refuse to accept any deed submitted for recordation that references the specific portion of any such restrictive covenant. The attorney who prepares or submits a deed for recordation has the responsibility of ensuring that the specific portion of such a restrictive covenant is not specifically referenced in the deed prior to such deed being submitted for recordation. A deed may include a general provision that states that such deed is subject to any and all covenants and restrictions of record; however, such provision shall not apply to the specific portion of a restrictive covenant purporting to restrict the ownership or use of the property as prohibited by subsection A of § 36-96.6. Any deed that is recorded in the land records on or after July 1, 2020, that mistakenly contains such a restrictive covenant shall nevertheless constitute a valid transfer of real property.

Code 1919, § 5162; Code 1950, § 55-48; 1990, cc. 208, 374; 2011, c. 701; 2014, c. 338; 2019, c. 712; 2020, c. 748.

§ 55.1-300.1. Certificate of Release of Certain Prohibited Covenants.

Any restrictive covenant prohibited by subsection A of § 36-96.6 may be released by the owner of real property subject to such covenant by recording a Certificate of Release of Certain Prohibited Covenants. The real property owner may record such certificate (i) prior to recordation of a deed conveying real property to a purchaser or (ii) when such real property owner discovers that such prohibited covenant exists and chooses to affirmatively release the same. Such certificate may be prepared without assistance of an attorney, but shall conform substantially to the following Certificate of Release of Certain Prohibited Covenants form:

"CERTIFICATE OF RELEASE OF CERTAIN PROHIBITED COVENANTS

Place of Record: ________

Date of Instrument containing prohibited covenant(s): ____

Instrument Type: __________

Deed Book ____ Page ___ or Plat Book ____ Page___

Name(s) of Grantor(s): ________

Name(s) of Current Owner(s): ________

Real Property Description: ________

Brief Description of Prohibited Covenant: ________

The covenant contained in the above-mentioned instrument is released from the above-described real property to the extent that it contains terms purporting to restrict the ownership or use of the property as prohibited by subsection A of § 36-96.6.

The undersigned is/are the legal owner(s) of the property described herein.

Given under my/our hand(s) this ____ day of ____ , 20__.

________

________

(Current Owners)

Commonwealth of Virginia,

County/City of ______ to wit:

Subscribed, sworn to, and acknowledged before me by ______ this ____ day of ____, 20__.

My Commission Expires: ______

________

NOTARY PUBLIC

Notary Registration Number: ______

The clerk shall satisfy the requirements of § 17.1-228."

2020, c. 748.

§ 55.1-301. How construed.

Unless the deed provides otherwise, any deed conveying land shall be construed to include all the estate, right, title, and interest, both at law and in equity, of the grantor in or to such land.

Code 1919, § 5163; Code 1950, § 55-49; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-302. Construction of generic terms.

In the interpretation of deeds, adopted persons and persons born out of wedlock are included in class gift terminology or terms of relationship in accordance with rules for determining relationships for purposes of intestate succession unless a contrary intent appears on the face of the deed. In determining the intent of a grantor, adopted persons are presumptively included in such terms as "children," "issue," "kindred," "heirs," "relatives," "descendants," or similar words of classification and are presumptively excluded by such terms as "natural children," "issue of the body," "blood kindred," "heirs of the body," "blood relatives," "descendants of the body," or similar words of classification.

1987, c. 604, § 55-49.1; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-303. Appurtenances, etc., included in deed of land.

Every deed conveying land shall be construed to include all buildings, privileges, and appurtenances of every kind belonging to such land unless an exception is made in the deed.

Code 1919, § 5168; Code 1950, § 55-50; 1992, c. 373; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-304. Relocation of easement.

The owner of land that is subject to an easement for the purpose of ingress and egress may relocate the easement, on the servient estate, by recording in the office of the clerk of the circuit court of the county or city in which the easement or any part of such easement is located, a written agreement evidencing the consent of all affected persons and setting forth the new location of the easement. In the absence of such written agreement, the owner of the land that is subject to such easement may seek relocation of the easement on the servient estate upon petition to the circuit court and notice to all parties in interest. The petition shall be granted if, after a hearing held, the court finds that (i) the relocation will not result in economic damage to the parties in interest, (ii) there will be no undue hardship created by the relocation, and (iii) the easement has been in existence for not less than 10 years.

Code 1919, § 5168; Code 1950, § 55-50; 1992, c. 373; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-305. Enjoyment of easement.

Unless otherwise provided for in the terms of an easement, the owner of a dominant estate shall not use an easement in a way that is not reasonably consistent with the uses contemplated by the grant of the easement, and the owner of the servient estate shall not engage in an activity or cause to be present any objects either upon the burdened land or immediately adjacent to such land that unreasonably interferes with the enjoyment of the easement by the owner of the dominant estate. For the purposes of this section, "object" does not include any fence, electric fence, cattle guard, gate, or division fence adjacent to such easement as those terms are defined in §§ 55.1-2800 through 55.1-2826. Any violation of this section may be deemed a private nuisance, provided, however, that the remedy for a violation of this section shall not in any manner impair the right to any other relief that may be applicable at law or in equity.

2003, c. 774, § 55-50.1; 2007, c. 931; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-306. Utility easements.

A. For the purposes of this section, "utility services" means any products, services, and equipment related to energy, broadband and other communications services, water, and sewerage.

B. Where an easement, whether appurtenant or gross, is expressly granted by an instrument recorded on or after July 1, 2006, that imposes on a servient tract of land a covenant (i) to provide an easement in the future for the benefit of utility services; (ii) to relocate, construct, or maintain facilities owned by an entity that provides utility services; or (iii) to pay the cost of such relocation, construction, or maintenance, such covenant shall be deemed for all purposes to touch and concern the servient tract, to run with the servient tract, its successors, and assigns for the benefit of the entity providing utility services, its successors, and assigns.

2006, c. 795, § 55-50.2; 2019, c. 712; 2020, cc. 1131, 1132.

§ 55.1-306.1. Utility easements; expansion of broadband.

A. As used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires:

"Claim" means, in reference to litigation brought against an indemnified party, any demand, claim, cause or right of action, judgment, settlement, payment, provision of a consent decree or a consent decree, damages, attorneys fees, costs, expenses, and any other losses of any kind whatsoever associated with litigation.

"Communications provider" means a broadband or other communications service provider, including a public utility as defined in § 56-265.1, a cable operator as defined in § 15.2-2108.1:1, a local exchange carrier, competitive or incumbent, or a subsidiary or affiliate of any such entity.

"Easement" means an existing or future occupied electric distribution or communications easement with right of apportionment, including a prescriptive easement, except that "easement" does not include (i) easements that contain electric substations or other installations or facilities of a nonlinear character and (ii) electric transmission easements.

"Enterprise data center operations" has the same meaning as provided in § 58.1-422.2.

"Evidence of creditworthiness" means commercially reasonable assurance, in a form satisfactory to the incumbent utility, that the communications provider will be able to meet its obligations to indemnify as required by this section. Demonstrating that the communications provider has met the eligibility requirements for the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI), without regard to receipt of a VATI grant, pursuant to regulations or guidelines adopted by the Department of Housing and Community Development, shall be presumptive evidence of creditworthiness.

"Incumbent utility" means the entity that is the owner of the easement.

"Indemnified parties" means an incumbent utility, or any subsidiary or affiliate of any such entity, and the employees, attorneys, officers, agents, directors, representatives, or contractors of any such entity.

"Occupancy license agreement" means an uncompensated agreement between an incumbent utility and a communications provider, for use when the communications provider wishes to occupy an easement underground, that includes evidence of creditworthiness, nondiscriminatory provisions based on safety, reliability, and generally applicable engineering principles.

"Prescriptive easement" means an easement in favor of an incumbent utility or communications provider that is deemed to exist, without any requirement of adverse possession, claim of right, or exclusivity, when physical evidence, records of the incumbent utility, public records, or other evidence indicates that it has existed on the servient estate for a continuous period of 20 years or more, without intervening litigation during such period by any party with a title interest seeking the removal of utility facilities or reformation of the easement. The size of such easement shall be deemed to be the greater of the actual occupancy of the easement in the incumbent utility's usual course of business or 7.5 feet on each side of the installed facilities' center-line.

"Public utility" has the same meaning as provided in § 56-265.1.

"Sensitive site" means an underlying servient estate that is occupied by a railroad or an owner or tenant having operations related to national defense, national security, or law-enforcement purposes.

B. It is the policy of the Commonwealth that:

1. Easements for the location and use of electric and communications facilities may be used to provide or expand broadband or other communications services;

2. The use of easements, appurtenant or gross, to provide or expand broadband or other communications services is in the public interest;

3. The installation, replacement, or use of public utility conduit, including the costs of installation, replacement, or use of conduit of a sufficient size to accommodate the installation of infrastructure to provide or expand broadband or other communications services, is in the public interest.

4. The use of easements, appurtenant or gross, to provide or expand broadband or other communications services (i) does not constitute a change in the physical use of the easement, (ii) does not interfere with, impair, or take any vested or other rights of the owner or occupant of the servient estate, (iii) does not place any additional burden on the servient estate other than a de minimis burden, if any; and (iv) has value to the owner or occupant of the servient estate greater than any de minimis impact;

5. The installation and operation of broadband or other communications services within easements, appurtenant or gross, are merely changes in the manner, purpose, or degree of the granted use as appropriate to accommodate a new technology; and

6. The statements in this subsection are intended to provide guidance to courts, agencies, and political subdivisions of the Commonwealth. Nothing in this section shall be deemed to make the use of an easement for broadband or other communications services, whether appurtenant, in gross, common, exclusive, or nonexclusive, a public use for the purposes of § 1-219.1, or other applicable law.

C. The installation and operation of broadband or other communications services by an incumbent utility for that utility's own internal use, adjunctive to the operation of the electric system, or for the purposes of electric safety, reliability, energy management, and electric grid modernization, are permitted uses within the scope of every easement.

D. Absent any express prohibition on the installation and operation of broadband or other communications services in an easement that is contained in a deed or other instrument by which the easement was granted, the installation and operation of broadband or other communications services within any easement shall be deemed, as a matter of law, to be a permitted use within the scope of every easement for the location and use of electric and communications facilities.

E. Subject to compliance with any express prohibitions in a written easement, any incumbent utility or communications provider may use an easement to install, construct, provide, maintain, modify, lease, operate, repair, replace, or remove its communications equipment, system, or facilities, and provide communications services through the same, without such incumbent utility or communications provider paying additional compensation to the owner or occupant of the servient estate or to the incumbent utility, provided that no additional utility poles are installed.

F. Nothing in this section shall diminish a landowner's right to contest, in a court of competent jurisdiction, the nature or existence of a prescriptive easement that has been continuously occupied for less than 20 years.

G. Any incumbent utility or communications provider may use a prescriptive easement to install, construct, provide, maintain, modify, lease, operate, repair, replace, or remove its communications equipment, system, or facilities, and provide communications services through the same, without such incumbent utility or communications provider paying additional compensation to the owner or occupant of the servient estate or to the incumbent utility, provided that no additional utility poles are installed.

H. Any incumbent utility may grant or apportion to any communications provider rights to install, construct, provide, maintain, modify, lease, operate, repair, replace, or remove its communications equipment, system, or facilities, and to provide communications services through the incumbent utility's prescriptive easement, including the right to enter upon such easement without approval of the owner or occupant of the servient estate, such grant and use being in the public interest and within the scope of the property interests acquired by the incumbent utility when the prescriptive easement was established.

I. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, in any action for trespass, or any claim sounding in trespass or reasonably related thereto, whatever the theory of recovery, relating to real property that is brought after July 1, 2020, against an incumbent utility or a communications provider, in relation to the existence, installation, construction, maintenance, modification, operation, repair, replacement, or removal of any poles, wires, conduit, or other communications infrastructure, including fiber optic or coaxial cabling or the existence of any easement, appurtenant or gross, including a prescriptive easement, if proven, damages recoverable by any claimant bringing such claim shall be limited to actual damages only, and no consequential, special, or punitive damages shall be awarded. Damages shall be based on any reduction in the value of the land as a result of the existence, installation, construction, maintenance, modification, operation, repair, replacement, or removal of communications facilities, as such tract existed at the time that any alleged trespass began giving rise to such claim under this section. The court shall also consider any positive value that access to broadband or other communications services may add to the property's value when calculating damages. Injunctive relief to require the removal or to enjoin the operation of other communications facilities or infrastructure shall not be available when such line or facilities are placed within an existing electric utility or communications easement, appurtenant or gross, but damages as set forth in this subsection shall be the exclusive remedy.

J. Nothing in this section shall be deemed to limit any liability for personal injury or damage to tangible personal property of the landowner or occupant caused directly by the activities of the incumbent utility or communications provider while on or adjacent to the landowner's or occupant's real property.

K. Any communications provider making use of an easement pursuant to this section shall:

1. Enter into an agreement with the incumbent utility authorizing it to use an easement;

2. Adhere to such restrictions as the incumbent utility may place on the communications provider, provided that such restrictions are reasonably related to safety, reliability, or generally applicable engineering principles and are applied on a nondiscriminatory basis;

3. For underground facilities, enter into an occupancy license agreement with the incumbent utility;

4. Agree in writing to indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the indemnified parties as against any third party for any claim, including claims of trespass, arising out of its entry onto, use of, or occupancy of such easement and provide evidence of creditworthiness, as the incumbent utility may prescribe, provided that the communications provider is given timely written notice and full cooperation of the indemnified parties in defending or settling any claim, including access to records and personnel to establish the existence of an easement and its history of use by the incumbent utility, and further provided that every communications provider occupying an easement that is the subject of a claim shall be jointly and severally liable to the indemnified parties, with an obligation of equal contribution, for any claim arising out of entry onto, use of, or occupancy of an easement for communications purposes; and

5. For underground facilities, abide by the provisions of the Underground Utility Damage Prevention Act (§ 56-265.14 et seq.).

L. A communications provider, making use of an easement pursuant to this section, shall not:

1. Locate a telecommunications tower in such easement; or

2. Install any new underground facilities except pursuant to an occupancy license agreement (i) in an incumbent utility's conduit pursuant to a joint use agreement; (ii) where incumbent utility facilities are permitted underground, using a clean-cutting direct burial technique beneath the surface soil no more than 24 inches in depth and six inches in width; or (iii) riser or drop lines or equipment connection lines, followed in all cases by reasonable restoration of the surface to substantially its prior condition, provided that the landowner shall not, absent an agreement to the contrary, be responsible for relocating or reimbursing the incumbent utility or a communications provider for the cost of relocating any new underground communications facilities installed pursuant to clause (ii) of this subdivision, which relocation and associated costs shall be addressed in the occupancy license agreement. This limitation on reimbursement or payment of relocation costs incurred as a result of development or redevelopment by the landowner shall not apply to any communications facilities in the public rights of way adjacent to or overlying the real property in question.

M. As against a communications provider, no incumbent utility shall:

1. Solely by virtue of the provisions of this section, require any additional compensation for use of an easement, unless such compensation is required expressly in a written easement or other agreement;

2. Unreasonably refuse to grant an occupancy license agreement to any communications provider;

3. Include in an occupancy license agreement requirements for title reports, surveys, or engineering drawings; or

4. Use an occupancy license agreement for dilatory purposes or to create a barrier to the deployment of broadband or other communications services.

N. Nothing in this section shall apply to those easements located on sensitive sites or housing enterprise data center operations.

O. Notwithstanding any provision of this section, a public utility or an incumbent utility may assess fees and charges and impose reasonable conditions on the use of its poles, conduits, facilities, and infrastructure, which, as regarding attachments to utility poles, shall be subject to the provisions of 47 U.S.C. § 224 for investor-owned utilities and to § 56-466.1 for electric cooperatives. The statutes of repose, limitation, and notice-of-claim requirements contained in subsections R, S, and T shall not apply as being between a communications provider and an incumbent utility.

P. Nothing in this section shall be construed to inhibit, diminish, or modify the application of the provisions of Chapter 4 (§ 56-76 et seq.) of Title 56 or § 56-231.34:1 or 56-231.50:1, as applicable.

Q. The provisions of this section shall be liberally construed. An agreement to indemnify pursuant to this section shall not be void as against public policy.

R. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, every action against an incumbent utility, public utility, or communications provider, or a subsidiary or affiliate of any such entity, in relation to the existence, installation, construction, maintenance, modification, operation, repair, replacement, or removal of any poles, wires, or other communications infrastructure, including fiber optic or coaxial cabling, whatever the theory of recovery, shall be brought within 12 months after the cause of action accrues. The cause of action shall be deemed to accrue when overhead broadband or other communications infrastructure is installed or when such underground infrastructure is discovered.

S. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, every action against an incumbent utility, public utility, or a communications provider, or a subsidiary or affiliate of any such entity, after actual notice has been given to the landowner or occupant in relation to the existence, installation, construction, maintenance, modification, operation, repair, replacement, or removal of any poles, wires, or other communications infrastructure, including fiber optic or coaxial cabling, overhead or underground, whatever the theory of recovery, shall be brought within six months after the cause of action accrues. The cause of action shall be deemed to accrue when actual notice, including notification of such six-month limitation period, is given to the landowner or occupant by first class mail to the last known mailing address of the landowner or occupant in the incumbent utility's records, or other actual notice.

T. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, every claim cognizable against any incumbent utility, public utility, or communications provider for trespass, or any claim sounding in trespass or reasonably related thereto, whatever the theory of recovery, in relation to the overhead or underground existence, installation, construction, maintenance, modification, operation, repair, replacement, or removal of any poles, wires, or other communications infrastructure, including fiber optic or coaxial cabling, shall be forever barred unless the claimant or his agent, attorney, or representative has filed a written statement addressed to the incumbent utility, and, if known, to the communications provider, of the nature of the claim, which includes the time and place at which the claim is alleged to have transpired, within 12 months after such cause of action accrued. The cause of action shall be deemed to accrue when physical overhead broadband or other communications infrastructure is installed, or when the existence of such underground infrastructure is discovered. However, if the claimant was under a disability at the time the cause of action accrued, the tolling provisions of § 8.01-229 shall apply.

2020, cc. 1131, 1132.

§ 55.1-307. Public road easements; maintenance and improvements.

Whenever a public road that has never been abandoned but is no longer publicly maintained serves as access for more than one property owner and operates as the primary source of ingress and egress for that property, any one of the property owners may maintain, repair, or improve the road at his own expense without the express permission of the other property owners but only after administrative review by the local government. All other property owners shall be notified by mail of any pending maintenance, repair, or improvements prior to commencement of the work. Nothing in this section shall be construed as allowing the property owner who is doing the maintenance, repairs, or improvements to the road to interfere with the other property owners' use of the road for ingress and egress.

2008, c. 599, § 55-50.3; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-308. Private roads; public use; maintenance and improvements.

Notwithstanding any provision of a recorded deed or plat to the contrary, a private road serving a subdivision of 50 or fewer lots may be dedicated for public use and may be taken into the secondary state highway system, subject to the provisions and requirements set forth in §§ 33.2-335 and 33.2-336, if the owner of the fee interest in such private road obtains the written consent of every lot owner in the subdivision whose lot is served by the private road and the holder of any restrictive covenant or easement rights over and concerning the private road prior to making such dedication and before requirements for acceptance of the road into the secondary state highway system are met. Such consent shall be recorded in the land records of the clerk's office of the circuit court of the county in which the private road is located.

2015, c. 495, § 55-50.4; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-309. Deeds good between parties.

Any deed, or a part of a deed, that fails to take effect by virtue of this chapter shall, nevertheless, be as valid and effectual and as binding upon the parties, so far as the rules of law and equity permit, as if this chapter had not been enacted.

Code 1919, § 5169; Code 1950, § 55-51; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-310. Conveyance of property not owned but subsequently acquired.

When a deed purports to convey property, real or personal, describing it with reasonable certainty, that the grantor does not own at the time of the execution of the deed, but subsequently acquires, such deed shall, as between the parties, have the same effect as if the title that the grantor subsequently acquires were vested in him at the time of the execution of such deed and thereby conveyed.

Code 1919, § 5202; Code 1950, § 55-52; 1958, c. 424; 1990, c. 831; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-311. Vendor's equitable lien abolished.

If any person conveys any real estate and the purchase money or any part thereof remains unpaid at the time of the conveyance, he shall not thereby have a lien for such unpaid purchase money, unless such lien is expressly reserved on the face of the conveyance.

Code 1919, § 5183; Code 1950, § 55-53; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-312. Certain deeds to county real estate validated.

All deeds executed prior to January 1, 1920, by a county commissioner, county commissioners, or a board of supervisors that convey any part of the real estate previously acquired by such county for county purposes are hereby validated and declared to have effectually passed the title to the part so conveyed even though the conveyance thereof reduced the real estate of the county to an area less than the county was required by law to own at the time of such conveyance.

1934, p. 228; Michie Code 1942, § 5183a; Code 1950, § 55-54; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-313. Validation of sales, etc., by county courts prior to 1860.

All sales or leases made prior to the year 1860 by the county court, or court of monthly session, of any county of any land or building then owned by such county and situated within the limits of land previously acquired by such county as a site for its courthouse and other public buildings, when the consideration therefor has been fully paid and the purchaser, or lessee as the case may be, and those claiming through or under him, shall have held continuous possession of such land or building from January 1, 1860, until January 1, 1934, are hereby validated and declared to be forever binding upon such county.

1934, p. 311; Michie Code 1942, § 5183b; Code 1950, § 55-55; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-314. Deeds and writings executed for persons in military service, etc., under defective powers.

All deeds or other writings executed by an agent or attorney-in-fact for a person in the armed forces or military service of the United States, or for a person who after executing a power of attorney or agency agreement entered the armed forces or military service of the United States, or for a person who departed from the United States by permission or direction of any department or official of the United States in connection with work relating to the prosecution of the war, when the power of attorney or agency agreement under which the deed or other instrument was signed was not executed in such a manner as to be valid as a sealed instrument, shall be held, and the same are hereby declared, valid and effective in all respects if otherwise valid according to the law then in force.

The provisions of this section shall not operate to affect adversely intervening vested rights.

1946, p. 190; Michie Suppl. 1946, § 5145a; Code 1950, § 55-56; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-315. Effect of option; recording.

A. Any option to purchase real estate, and any memorandum, renewal, or extension of such option, shall be void as to (i) all purchasers for valuable consideration without notice who are not parties to such instrument and (ii) lien creditors, until such instrument is recorded in the county or city in which the property embraced in the option, memorandum, renewal, or extension is located.

B. Notwithstanding any rule of law or equity denominated "fettering," "clogging the equity of redemption" or "claiming a collateral advantage" or any similar rule:

1. A party secured by a mortgage or deed of trust, without adversely affecting his security interest, may acquire from a borrower any direct or indirect present or future ownership interest in the collateral encumbered thereby, including rights to any income, proceeds, or increase in value derived from such collateral; and

2. An option to acquire an interest in real estate granted to a party secured by a mortgage or deed of trust, other than an option granted to such party in connection with a mortgage loan as defined in § 6.2-1600, is effective according to its terms and takes priority as provided in subsection A if the right to exercise the option is not dependent upon the occurrence of a default under the mortgage or deed of trust.

1989, c. 596, § 55-57.2; 2019, c. 712.