Easements as a Tool for Preservation
FAQs
Easements

Here in Boston there are a few ways we can protect a building or other historic resource. If it is historically significant regionally or nationally, it may be designated a local Landmark by the Boston Landmarks Commission. Or, if the whole area is significant, it can be part of a local Landmark District. 
 
But how can an individual property owner protect a house or commercial building other than Landmarking? Preservation easements, sometimes called restrictions, might be an option. 
 
What is a preservation easement?

A preservation easement is a legal agreement used to protect significant building and landscape features of a historic property. The property owner (easement donor) and a qualified preservation organization (easement holder) like Historic New England sign a legal document, recorded with local land records, that gives the easement holder certain rights and responsibilities associated with perpetual protection. Easements can be written to protect specific features both inside and outside a building or within the landscape including staircases, fireplaces, historic wallpaper, and early hardware as well as fences, stone walls, and open space. 
 
How does it work?
Qualified staff at the organization that holds the easement will work with the property owner to complete the easement process. They will discuss what historic features should be protected. When the easement if finalized, a preservation professional will visit the site, usually annually, to monitor compliance with the language of the easement. Preservation easements do not prevent the sale or lease of a historic property or hinder estate planning. 
 
Could I still update my house under an easement?
Generally, preservation easements do not require a homeowner to receive approval for completing basic maintenance of their home, such as painting or minor repairs. For projects that may affect protected features of the home, the professional staff works with the property owner to make sure their needs are met without removing or damaging those features. 
 
Does it cost anything to put a preservation easement on my property?
Yes, there are fees associated with preservation easements. Most easement holders require a contribution to an endowment or other types of fees in order to maintain the professional staff to oversee the easement in perpetuity. The amount depends on the scope of the easement and could potentially be funded as part of a project proposal through the Community Preservation Act
 

Other Resources

Boston Groundwater Trust Video Series

In 2018, The Boston Groundwater Trust debuted a series of award winning informational videos abou

Longwood Medical and Academic Area (LMA) Historic Properties Survey-Final Report

The Boston Preservation Alliance received mitigation funds from Boston Children’s Hospital to upd

Boston Harborwalk-A Public Access Map of Boston's Coastline

The Boston Harborwalk is a nearly 40-mile public waterfront walkway that winds through Boston’s w

The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse

Until now, little has been known about the climate change reductions that might be offered by reu

Back Bay Houses

Boston’s Back Bay is a miracle of preservation.

Piano Row: Cycles of History

Piano Row: Cycles of History is an original film documentary about the evolution of Bost

Historic Ladder Blocks—An Endangered Resource in Downtown Boston

With no local protection or means of preventing demolition, the Ladder Blocks are at great risk o

Boston Modern: The Spirit of Reinvention

Boston Modern: The Spirit of Reinvention events and booklet are part of the Modern Module program

Boston's Changing Neighborhoods

On February 4, 2016 the Boston Preservation Alliance hosted an Urban Forum: “Boston’s Changi

City of Boston Archives

201 Rivermoor Street
West Roxbury, MA 02132
(617) 635-1195

Neighborhood Preservation Workshops

The Boston Preservation Alliance’s Neighborhood Preservation Workshop was a pilot program that ra

Inspectional Services Department (ISD)

1010 Massachusetts Avenue
5th Floor
Boston, MA 02118
(617) 635-5300

Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA)

One City Hall Square
Floor 9
Boston, MA 02201
(617) 722-4300

Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC)

City of Boston Departments and Commissions

Thank you to all our corporate members, including: