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An encumbrance on the Title to land or property is any interest -- legal or equitable -- that detracts from the owner's ability to enjoy the land or property without hinderance. Encumberances range from a long Lease made out of the property, to an Easement preventing the obstruction of light to other buildings. A prospective purchaser will be interested in such things during the Investigation of title. When an estate in land is sold, the seller will contract to provide the land free of encumbrances or, at least, with only specific encumbrances as disclosed to the purchaser. If encumbrances turn up after the sale, then strictly speaking the purchaser has an action against the seller for breach of contract. In reality, these actions are rarely successful, and the purchaser should be very careful to check for encumbrances.