How do you share a private road with an unruly neighbor who attempts to take control of half of the roadway? It may require a real estate attorney to get it sorted.
Q: Two years after we bought our house, we discovered that the top of our street is not owned by the county. Half of the road is owned by me and the other half owned by the neighbor across the street. Well, my neighbor has now blocked the middle of the street and we can not back out of our driveway or have people over for that reason.
I was wondering if you have any advice on what to do? Thank you.
A: In some parts of the country it’s not unusual to have private roads and, in particular, when those roads are shared by neighboring properties. What is unusual is when one of the owners decides to take control over half the roadway.
We suspect that the road has been there for some time and you and your neighbor both have continuing rights to use the entirety of the road. In some situations, there may be easements recorded that outline the ability of the neighbors to use the road as well as the public.
At this point, you need to go over your purchase documentation to see if you received copies of any title commitments, title policies, easement documents or other land documents to review. You may not be an attorney, but you’re looking for any document that describes the roadway and details any information relating to the road. You may have a survey that was given to you at the time you purchased the home.
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 road but the surveyor might have noted on that part of the road that 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 against your neighbor to force him to keep the roadway clear.
Unfortunately, if the previous owners of the property sold of the parcels of land with a road dividing the parcels and never created any documentation relating to the road, you will need legal help to get it sorted out.
There is a concept in law relating to implied or required easements given certain specific circumstances. That is to say, if an easement must be implied given the prior use of a roadway and that easement is necessary for access, the law may create and imply that easement even when there is no paper document.
However, from the information in your question, we have no way to know whether you have an implied easement or not. For that, you’ll need to talk to a real estate attorney in your area and go over all the information you have.
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.