Property should always have proper access to a public highway, otherwise it may be landlocked.
It cannot always be assumed that a road or path adjoining a property is a public highway, and a buyer’s Conveyancing Solicitor will check this with the local authority as part of the local searches.
If a property does not directly abut a public highway, it should have the benefit of a right of way over neighbouring property leading to a public highway. Many properties as well as fronting a public highway have the benefit of a private rear road or path, to allow access to the garden or garage.
The buyer’s Conveyancing Solicitor will check with the deeds for the existence of legal rights of way. However the buyer’s Surveyor should also be asked to comment on the condition of any access way and to confirm that it can be used and has not been obstructed.
If access is limited in any way this might affect the value of the property, and the Surveyor should be asked to advise. For example, a property might only be accessible on foot and have no vehicular access.
Disputes over access can be lengthy and costly, so it is best to avoid buying a property where there is any ongoing access problem.
Houses on many modern developments are grouped around small courtyards or cul-de-sacs which are not publicly maintained. In these cases each property should have a right of way over the shared access way, and the deeds should contain provisions detailing who is responsible for its maintenance and repair.
When a property owner is liable to contribute to maintenance costs for a private access, a Surveyor’s advice should be obtained as to the likelihood of work being required in the near future.
If a property is subject to a right of access for the benefit of a neighbouring property a buyer should be informed of this by his Conveyancing Solicitor. A Surveyor’s advice may be required as to whether this will affect the property value.