You discovered an undeveloped plot of land along a secluded lake that would be ideal for your future weekend retreat. Perhaps you’ve discovered a plot of vacant land behind an existing shopping mall that would be ideal for the restaurant you’ve always wanted to open. The only issue is that there is no existing road to the land. Crossing a neighbor’s lot is the only way to get to the property. The land you want to purchase is referred to as “landlocked property.” In this blog post, we will discuss obtaining driveway access to landlocked property under the law, as well as answering the question, is it legal to sell or build on them?
If you want to buy it, you may have to use legal means to build the access road you’d need to get there, or you may have to negotiate with your neighbors to gain the right to cross their property to get to yours.
What Is LandLocked Property
In the context of real estate, “landlocked” refers to a piece of property that is inaccessible by public thoroughfare except through an adjacent lot. This type of vacant lot is one that is located behind a strip mall and can only be reached by walking through the mall. A landlocked property is surrounded by other property.
Understanding Landlocked Property
Landlocked parcels are usually the result of subdivisions, or the division of a larger parcel of land into smaller parcels that are sold separately. Ideally, each of the smaller parcels would have access to a public right-of-way, but this is not always possible.
For example, a seller may wish to subdivide a large square parcel with an unsuitable for development landscape feature in the center, such as a mountain. Instead of carving out a gerrymandered parcel and obtaining driveway access to the mountain, it could be left the landlocked property.
When land that has been in a family for many years is divided up among family members; landlocked real estate properties can occur. When properties are sold, there is a need for the properties to be owned separately. Furthermore, when the surrounding properties were owned by the same family, access to the landlocked property may not have been an issue. However, once the ownership of some of the properties changes; access to the landlocked properties in real estate may become a problem.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Landlocked Properties
Landlocked property is typically worth less than other nearby properties due to its inaccessibility. But that doesn’t mean that nothing is worthwhile. Property owners in the United States have the right to “productive use” of their land, which generally means the right to access a public highway.
Similar laws exist in India. To provide such access, an easement that grants the right to cross the surrounding countryside is used.
There are various types of easements, some of which are easier to obtain than others. Nonetheless, knowledgeable investors who understand the rules will consider successful landlocked property investments.
A friendly agreement with a nearby landowner is the least stressful way to obtain an easement. They may be tempted to make an oral promise allowing a landlocked owner to cross their land; but buyers should make the promise in writing. A written easement prepared by a lawyer and recorded in the local deed provides security for landlocked property in and of itself.
The neighbors could change their minds verbally or sell their land to a less accommodating owner. Finally, if the landlocked parcel is put up for sale again, the neighbor’s word won’t mean much. All of these potential issues are avoided by a permanent written easement.
It is important to remember that the required filing for an easement can result in legal fees. It may also leave the landlocked owner with a vengeful neighbor who will contest the decision. There are legal exceptions to an easement; such as land patents issued by the United States federal government hundreds of years ago.
It can be difficult for the owner to gain access to a landlocked property or parcel. However, state and federal laws protect property owners’ rights to “productive use” of their land; which generally means the right to gain access to a public road.
To provide such access, an easement is used, which grants the right to cross over neighboring land. There are various types of easements, some of which are easier to obtain than others. Landlocked property can be a good investment for savvy buyers who understand the law and its rules.
A friendly negotiation with a neighboring landowner is the most stress-free way to obtain an easement. They may be tempted to make a verbal promise that allows a landlocked owner to cross their land, but buyers should insist on a written promise.
A written easement prepared by a real estate lawyer and registered with the local deed office provides security to the owner of a landlocked property. A verbal agreement allows the neighbor to change their mind or sell their land to a less welcoming owner.
Finally, when the landlocked parcel is put up for sale again, the neighbor’s word won’t mean much. A written permanent easement eliminates all of these potential issues.
Easement by Necessity
If a neighbor refuses to sign a friendly easement or demands excessive compensation, an easement may be required by necessity. A court order granting the landowner legally entitled access to their property is known as an easement by necessity.
The catch is that the landlocked owner must demonstrate through a deed and title search that both the landlocked property and the neighboring property were owned by the same person at one time. The court is basically ruling that when the property was subdivided, the owner failed to provide the required road access.
It is important to note that filing for an easement will inevitably result in legal fees. Furthermore, the landlocked owner may be left with an angry neighbor who can appeal the ruling. By necessity, there are exceptions to an easement, such as federal government land patents dating back hundreds of years. Buyers should consult an experienced real estate attorney to avoid being embroiled in legal battles over a landlocked property.
How to Obtain a Landlocked Property Easement
What options do you have when your property is legally and/or economically landlocked and your neighbor refuses you from obtaining a driveway access allowance?
You have the legal right to demand passage. As a result, the court will grant a legal easement granting the dominant lot (the landlocked lot); the right to pass over the servient lot upon judicial application (the neighboring lot).
When determining the basis of the easement, several criteria are considered. In general, the right-of-way will be enforced against the neighbor from whom the right-of-way is most naturally claimed; taking into account the condition of the premises, the locational advantage of the landlocked property, and the inconvenience caused to the land that is subject to it. For less than ten years, public use of a right-of-way establishes an absolute presumption (and a rebuttable presumption for less than ten years)that it is the most advantageous route for the landlocked parcel of land and the least disadvantageous for the servient land.
It is important to note, however, that an easement cannot be subject to an acquisitive prescription. As a result, even if a person has been using a road for more than ten years; they cannot claim any right to do so. As a result, only a court-granted easement (legal easement) or a contract-based easement (conventional easement) protects access to a landlocked parcel of land under the law.
Liability of the Owner of the Dominant Lot
The right-of-way beneficiary must plan for and bear responsibility for all work required to ensure that this right is exercised in the least damaging manner possible to the land subject to it. This also implies that they must bear the costs of right-of-way maintenance. This responsibility, however, may be shared if the road is used by multiple parties.
It is also possible that an indemnity must be paid to the owner of the land used to compensate for the prejudice caused by the servitude on their property.
Exception to the Right-of-Way of a Landlocked Parcel of Land
If your property became landlocked as a result of an estate division law, whether by a partition; will, or contract, the partition may not be claimed against the neighbor from whom the easement would have most naturally been claimed. The right way must be claimed by the co-partitioner; heir, or contracting party who caused the division and thus the enclave in such cases.
In the case of succession, for example, an estate is divided into three lots, one for each of the heirs. As a result of this subdivision, one of the three lots is landlocked. Even though it would have been more convenient to require access from another neighbor; the heir who receives this landlocked lot will only be able to obtain access through the other two lots.
Termination of the Right-of-Way
The right-of-way terminates when it is no longer required for the use and exploitation of the landlocked parcel of land. For example, when a landlocked parcel merges with a neighboring parcel with public road access.
Can You Deny Access to Landlocked Property?
You cannot, however, deny access to the landlocked property. Even if direct access is not possible, there are federal and state laws in place that allow access to the landlocked property. An easement, or easement by necessity, is one of the best ways to gain access to the landlocked property.
What Are the Benefits of Investing in a Landlocked Property?
There are numerous reasons why someone might want to invest in a landlocked property. Landlocked properties are less valuable, so they could be an entry point into an otherwise expensive neighborhood that is out of the person’s price range. If a landlocked property is next to a business or area of business that is likely to expand in the future, then holding onto the landlocked property and selling it at a higher price when the business area expands is another reason to purchase such property.
Purchasing landlocked property has advantages and disadvantages. You will need to take the necessary steps to obtain driveway access to your land, which may entail a lengthy negotiation with your neighboring property owner or even a legal battle. You must decide whether the lower price that usually comes with a landlocked property is worth the potential hassle.
Frequently Asked Question
What makes land landlocked?
A landlocked property, as the name implies, is one that is surrounded by other people’s lots. As a result, there is no legal access road to the landlocked property. The only way to get to the land is to go through a neighbor’s property. A vacant lot behind a shopping mall could be an example.
What does landlocked mean in Ontario?
A parcel of land (lot) is landlocked (enclaved) if it lacks access to a public road or has insufficient, difficult, or impassable access. Not only do provincial and municipal streets and roads count as public roads, but so does any road that leads to them.
Can you sell landlocked property in Texas?
Landlocked landowners will be limited in their ability to sell the property and/or obtain a loan using the landlocked property as collateral unless they have written documentation of the legal right of access. Title companies will not insure title to property that does not have legal access.
How do I remove an easement from my property?
An easement can be terminated in eight ways: abandonment, merger, termination of necessity, demolition, recording act, condemnation, adverse possession, and release.