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A burden, obstruction, or impediment on property that lessens its value or makes it less marketable. An encumbrance (also spelled incumbrance) is any right or interest that exists in someone other than the owner of an estate and that restricts or impairs the transfer of the estate or lowers its value. This might include an Easement, a lien, a mortgage, a mechanic's lien, or accrued and unpaid taxes.

encumbrance (incumbrance)

n. a general term for any claim or lien on a parcel of real property. These include: mortgages, deeds of trust, recorded abstracts of judgment, unpaid real property taxes, tax liens, mechanic's liens, easements, and water or timber rights. While the owner has title, any encumbrance is usually on record (with the County Recorder or Recorder of Deeds) and must be paid for at some point.


noun burden, charge, claim, curb, difficulty, disadvantage, drawback, hampering, hindering, hindrance, hitch, hurdle, impediment, impedimentum, inconvenience, infliction, interference, liability, lien, lien on an estate, load, mortgage, obstacle, onus, oppression, pressure, restriction, retardation, stay, stop, stoppage
Associated concepts: easements, mortgage
Foreign phrases: Transit terra cum onere.Land passes subject to any encumbrances affecting it.
See also: accountability, barrier, burden, charge, constraint, damper, debt, disadvantage, fetter, handicap, hindrance, impediment, imposition, liability, lien, mortgage, onus, pressure, responsibility, restriction, weight


a burden that affects land, such as a mortgage.

ENCUMBRANCE. A burden or charge upon an estate or property, so that it cannot be disposed of without being subject to it. A mortgage, a lien for taxes, are examples of encumbrances.
     2. These do not affect the possession of the grantee, and may be removed or extinguished by a definite pecuniary value. See 2 Greenl. R. 22; 5 Greenl. R. 94.
     3. There are encumbrances of another kind which cannot be so removed, such as easements for example, a highway, or a preexisting right to take water from, the land. Strictly speaking, however, these are not encumbrances, but appurtenances to estates in other lands, or in the language of the civil law, servitudes. (q.v.) 5 Conn. R. 497; 10 Conn. R. 422 15 John. R. 483; and see 8 Pick. R. 349; 2 Wheat. R. 45. See 15 Verm. R. 683; l Metc. 480; 9 Metc. 462; 1 App. R. 313; 4 Ala. 21; 4 Humph. 99; 18 Pick. 403; 1 Ala. 645; 22 Pick. 447; 11 Gill & John. 472.

References in classic literature ?
Here was knowledge in which no one could partake; and she was sensible that nothing less than a perfect understanding between the parties could justify her in throwing off this last encumbrance of mystery.
Besides, do you know what is our situation, and whether Mazarin's arrest wouldn't be rather an encumbrance than an advantage?
Thus lightened of all superfluous encumbrance, he set off on the 20th of November to rejoin his Indian allies.
I had regarded his presence as an encumbrance to the expedition, but, as a matter of fact, I am now well convinced that his power of endurance is as great as my own.
He was arriving like a ghost, and the sound of his own footsteps was almost an encumbrance to be got rid of.
The latter seemed to Tarzan a most useless encumbrance, so he threw his away.
Not only was here a woman who was not bent on finding a husband, but it was a woman who wasn't a woman at all; who was genuinely appalled by the thought of a husband; who joyed in boys' games, and sentimentalized over such things as adventure; who was healthy and normal and wholesome, and who was so immature that a husband stood for nothing more than an encumbrance in her cherished scheme of existence.
He failed to see any advantage in carrying about such a useless encumbrance.
Whilst something higher than prudence is active, he is admirable; when common sense is wanted, he is an encumbrance.
But whatever may have been his reasons, he took the papers back and so rid himself of an encumbrance.
But I happen to be an encumbrance in the way of another man.
She had not been able to conceal from herself that he was a terrible encumbrance, that poor Stevie.