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Historic Preservation Easements

More than 1,700 historic properties in the District of Columbia, or about 6% of the properties in the DC Inventory of Historic Sites, are protected by private historic preservation easements, also known as conservation easements. Such easements may limit the kinds of alterations that owners can make to these properties.

What is the purpose of preservation easements?

Historic preservation easements are voluntary agreements intended to preserve the historic character of a property by giving the easement holder a legal property interest. When a property owner grants an easement, the private or government entity accepting the easement gains certain property rights. Typically, this includes the right to limit the extent of alteration to the property.

Does an easement expire when the property is sold?

No. The easement is part of the chain of title for the property, and it “runs with the land,” meaning that present and future owners are bound by the easement.

What does an easement require the property owner to do?

Under District law, the owner of a property protected by an easement registered with the District must obtain written consent from the easement holder before a subdivision or permit for work on the property can be issued. HPO and HPRB do not review proposed work on properties with easements without the written consent of the easement holder.

How do I find out if there is a preservation easement on my property?

The Historic Preservation Office (HPO) maintains a list of historic preservation easements registered with the District. This list is compiled from records submitted by easement holding organizations.

Properties with known recorded easement agreements now display on the DC Property Quest GIS Map as blue shaded lots.  Easement properties are also identified in the Highlights panel along with the named historic district or named historic landmark site.

The easement holding organization for each specific property is identified on the first link below.

Property easements are also recorded in local land records when they are granted. The Recorder of Deeds in the Office of Tax and Revenue maintains these records for the District of Columbia.

How can I benefit from donating an easement?

The donation of an easement to preserve a certified historic structure or historically important land area qualifies as a charitable contribution for federal income and estate tax purposes.