How to share a private road with an unruly neighbor? What do you do if your neighbor takes over a private road?
Q: How do I share a private road with my unruly neighbor? We discovered that the county does not own the top part of our road. We learned this two years after we bought our house. I own half of the private road. My neighbor owns the other half. He isn’t very nice.
Well, my unruly neighbor has now blocked the middle of the street and we cannot back out of our driveway onto our private road or have people over for that reason.
I was wondering if you have any advice on what to do. Thank you.
Private roads can cause trouble with unruly neighbors
A: In some parts of the country it’s not unusual to have private roads. You often see it when those roads are shared by neighboring properties. It is unusual is when one of the owners decides to take control over half of the private roadway.
We suspect that the private road has been there for some time. And, we imagine you and your neighbor have continuing rights to use the entirety of the road. Did the prior owner record an easement outlining the ability of your neighbors and the public to use the road?
At this point, you need to go over your purchase documentation:
- Title commitments
- Title policies
- Easement documents
- Other land documents
You may not be an attorney, but you’re looking for any document that describes the private roadway and details any information relating to the road.
If you find that survey, it should show the outline of your property with a dark line. That outline should extend to the middle of the private road. Did the surveyor note whether that part of the road was “dedicated” as a road. Or, that the road was covered by an easement with the date and document number for the easement. Or, it might note that the roadway right was created under some subdivision plat.
Each of these different methods of creating the road should give you and your neighbor the right to the continued use of the road. If your neighbor is violating the terms of your right, you may have the right to take legal action to force him to keep the roadway clear.
No legal documentation relating to the private road? Might have an “implied easement.”
Did the previous owners of the property sell the parcels of land with a road dividing the parcels? Did they create and record documents relating to the road? You might need to hire legal help to get it sorted out.
There is a concept in law relating to implied or required easements given certain specific circumstances:
- the private roadway is necessary for access. If you can’t access your property other than by the private roadway, then access might be necessary.
However, from the information in your question, we don’t know whether you have an implied easement. For that, you’ll need to talk to a real estate attorney in your area and go over all the information you have.
Private roads must accessible to city and county vehicles
Finally, if the roadway is necessary for life, fire and safety requirements by the county or city in which you live, you might want to talk to your local government’s office to see if they have any information in their books about the roadway. If they have the information, your neighbor’s blocking of the roadway may violate some municipal or county laws and the municipality might be able to cite the owner for the blockage.
Read more about unruly neighbor issues: