What does begin construction of a residence mean?

UPDATED: Jan 3, 2012

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What does begin construction of a residence mean?

We own an undeveloped lot. The deed states that the neighbor has a right of way over our driveway until such time as I or my brother begin construction of a residence on the lot. He and I co-own the lot. What does “begin construction” mean? Obtaining a building permit? Digging an excavation? Other? The neighbor is not landlocked but doesn’t want to put in his own driveway.

Asked on January 3, 2012 under Real Estate Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

There is no specific legal definition of this term (unless the deed itself contains one; if it does, that definition will control). When there is no specific legal definition, the law looks to the plain or customary understanding of the term in ordinary usage, which would mean that to "begin construction" is to start the actual work of contruction--basically, putting a shovel in the ground and starting to did the foundation, etc. Paperwork (like a permit) or planning (like drawing up blueprints, contracting with a builder, etc.) would not qualify--it is actually starting to build that would be the "begin[ning] [of] construction."

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