Can I make repairs to a privately owned dirt road without the owner’s permission to gain access to a property with no alternative ingress or egress?

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Can I make repairs to a privately owned dirt road without the owner’s permission to gain access to a property with no alternative ingress or egress?

I want to buy a home that can only be accessed by a privately owned road but that road is nearly impassable for non-4-wheel drive vehicles and the owner of that private road refuses to make it reasonably usable. As I understand it, the current owner and their neighbors have tried repeatedly to have him fix this access to their homes to no effect. If there is no other way to access the home in question could I fix the road at my own expense without his permission?

Asked on January 6, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Alabama

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Consult with a real estate attorney before doing anything. If there is an easement on the road--i.e. a legal right given to the owner of the property you wish to buy--then you *may* be able to make the repairs if the owner of the road/land does not after repeated requests, though it's also possible that the proper recourse is to go to court for  an order requiring him to either make the repairs or at least allow you access to repair (e.g. doing work on his land, even if there is an easement to travel over the road, without his permission could be trepassing without a court order).

If there  is no formal easement existing, it may be that  one would be created by law IF the property you wish to buy is "landlocked"--that is, this road is the only way *possible* to access  it. However, if the property is not landlocked and its owner could reach a public road in some other way, it may be that you would have to pay to build your own road linking to public roads.

In short, you *might* have the right to make the repair, but it depends on the facts of the situation; and even if you have the right to do this, the mere fact that  you could be dependent on others greatly complicates matters (and could reduce resalability). You need to understand this situation better before  acting.


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