When you give an easement on your historic D.C. property, you want to protect your property, preserve its resale value and get the tax deduction you are entitled to. To achieve all of these ends, you will want to assure that your easement is given to and held by a well-rooted, Washington-based organization, one with an oversight board of local Washingtonians and one with proven record of affirmative easement enforcement.
You want your easement to be affirmatively enforced by knowledgeable, local Washingtonians who will respond helpfully and promptly to your requests for change. Lax easement enforcement is not in your best interests. It may lead not only to cloudy titles (which in turn can impede a property's resale) it undermines the value of the tax deduction allowed for qualifying easement donations. In its recent decision involving two easements donated to The L'Enfant Trust (see Simmons v. Commissioner under the Other News tab of this website), the U.S. Tax Court allowed a deduction based on the easements' imposition of "heightened financial burdens" and on "L'Enfant's affirmative enforcement of its easements," an enforcement record which the Court discussed in some detail.
Be careful about promoters who steer you to a particular easement holding group and make sure you find out how and by whom the promoter is paid. We strongly recommend that you take the time to visit the offices of your intended easement holder before you donate, but in all events, make sure you select the easement holding organization rather than the other way around. Go to the tab on this website, D.C. Easement Holding Organizations.
In 2004, The Washington Post ran a series of articles about certain newly-formed non-profit organizations abusing the tax subsidy that supports easement programs such as the one pioneered by The L'Enfant Trust. The series concluded with an editorial recognizing the value of preservation easements ("they ought to be encouraged") but warning about "easement mills" with "lavish compensation packages" and "deals that enrich insiders." Note: the "National Architectural Trust" described in the editorial has changed its name to "Trust for Architectural Easements".