Amelia Gomes  /   12/28/2022

All You Need To Know About Road Access

When purchasing land, many interested land buyers often get curious about the consequences of owning land that does not touch a public road. Some get skeptical when the only route to their land is a road that passes through an adjacent landowner’s property. Others worry about what to do if there’s no access road. This post answers your questions and enlightens you on road access and other important topics.

There’s a need for ease and comfort when you enter and exit a property. At Community Lands, we provide you with the best resources to achieve this on your property. This insightful and comprehensive post will help you understand the concept of road access by discussing its types, rights of way, and easements. Dive in as we break this concept down.

Accessing landlocked or undeveloped properties

A landlocked property is land that is surrounded by other people’s properties. This situation makes it impossible for any authorized road to lead to your land. In such cases, you can only access the land by passing through your neighbor’s land.

Landlocked properties often come from landlords who frequently divide their land. It could also result from several individuals dividing their land into smaller plots to sell for profit. This sometimes requires direct access to the main road.

When you buy a landlocked property, it’s essential to know that you can open up your land. Most property owners are typically open to negotiating an easement that permits you to construct an access road to the land you wish to buy.

You can also bargain with the owners of surrounding land or properties for this easement or right of way. Again, this step depends primarily on the adjacent landowners. In some cases, this process goes smoothly. Others necessitate a drawn-out and expensive legal battle.

What Is An Easement?

An easement provides you with access to your landlocked property. Most times, you need to obtain an easement from your adjoining property owner if you buy a landlocked property.

When it comes to landlocked properties, the standard type of easement involved is an easement by necessity. When one party needs to use the property of another, an easement is created by necessity. This easement is more permissive because local laws enforce it. It also does not call for a written agreement.

It could be as easy as your neighbors permitting you to use their driveway as a shortcut to your property. Alternatively, your neighbors may enable you to construct a driveway or access road that crosses their land and leads to yours.

In cases where the neighboring property owner won’t grant you an easement, even if you agree to pay for it, you might be forced to seek an easement by necessity. This court order gives a property owner an easement to access their land.

With a deed and title investigation, you must demonstrate the person that once owned your landlocked property and the surrounding property to obtain an easement by necessity filing. If you can show this, the court will usually conclude that the landowner who divided the property refused to offer the road access required to give the isolated area of land value.

What Are Rights Of Way?

A right-of-way is a particular kind of easement that allows you to pass through someone’s property without being able to use the land or create any roads there.

Your land’s layout determines a right-of-way easement. For example, if you can’t reach a public road from your property without crossing the property of another owner, you could require a right of way.

Types of Road Access and Their Meanings

Public roads

A public road is one that everybody has the legal right to use and is recorded in the public record. Public roads include city streets and state highways. A public road is under the jurisdiction of and maintained by a public authority, be it federal, state, county, town, township, or local government. It is also open to general travel.

Private roads 

Private roads are owned and maintained by a private individual, organization, or enterprise. They are built with a documented easement, and only a select few people can cross these roads. Though it’s less common, these roads can also be made without an easement.

Dirt roads

Dirt roads are unpaved roads that aren’t paved with asphalt, concrete, brick, or stone. Instead, these roads are created from the natural material of the land surface they travel through.

These roads are frequently used as farm access routes, roads in developing nations, roads with lower levels of investment, or roads in areas with limited financial resources. Although dirt roads are convenient, they do not last since they are highly weather-sensitive, turn to mud in the rainy season, and collapse under excessive traffic.

Unbuilt or unfinished roads

These are roads that haven’t been fixed in a while. Some of these roads have only been partially completed, even if they have been rebuilt. As a result, the state of the roadways deteriorates, particularly during the wet season.

What to do when the city requires you to build a road before developing the property

A landlocked property comes with several hitches, and road construction is one of them. Sometimes, the city might need to build a road before a landowner starts developing their property. Cases like these require the owner to make certain moves depending on factors such as the county, city, and even the hamlet. Below are a few things you can do when incidents like this arise:

Set aside some land for the road

More land always comes in handy when it comes to real estate. Developing your land on a larger lot provides more space between houses or other structures. It also gives room in case the need to build a road arises. You can do this as long as the zoning allows it.

Each town or county establishes its own requirements for road frontage. Each location will have a minimum size requirement for the front, side, and back yards. You can consult the zoning map at your town or city hall to learn more about the road frontage restrictions in your area. You can also contact the zoning division in the city or county where your property is located.

Check your local laws

In some US states, a landlocked property owner can request a public road from the commissioners’ court. To do this, the landowner must notify each property owner who might be impacted by the easement and submit a sworn application to the commissioners’ court.

The application will be the subject of a hearing. The commissioner’s court will decide if the landowner lacks access to their property and may even mandate the construction of a public road.

Navigating a landlocked property requires knowing the proper easements or rights-of-way. When you understand how to go about them, it becomes easier to negotiate with your landlord or neighbor to create easy and comfortable access to your property. With the right information, you’ll understand that road access is simple. You’ll also discover that there are numerous ways to get around a landlocked property to enjoy it to the fullest.

To learn more about how to be the most efficient and environmentally-friendly land owner you can be, visit the Community Lands’ Learn Center.

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