Legal access to land is an issue that I deal with a great deal. Land that borders a public access road usually does not have issues. The possible exception to that is where some geographic feature at the roadside prevents access to the property (a large bank or deep gully). However, in rural areas, many properties do not border a public road. Properties that do not have frontage on a public road are said to be “landlocked”. This means that you must travel over a property owned by someone else in order to get to the landlocked property. I certainly do not recommend doing this without the permission of the owner of the property over which you will be traveling. This is a trespass.
Many times these issues are settled with a simple phone call to a landowner who gives you permission to cross over his land in order to get to yours. This is what happens 90% of the time. Most times landowners have no issue with allowing you access to your property. Part of this is because they just find it to be the neighborly thing to do. Part of this is because they know if you push the issue legally, you will probably win. Here’s where the rub comes in. Most lenders will not lend on property without a written, legal easement or road frontage. If you are considering buying a landlocked property and need to borrow money on it, you need to make sure that it has a legal, written easement…one that is recorded along with the deed to the property. Gentlemen’s agreements are not legally binding access agreements. An unwritten access agreement may be just fine for a timber property or a hunting property that you will pay cash for. If you ever want to develop the property in any manner you will probably need electricity though. Getting electricity in a conventional manner requires an easement for landlocked properties.
Curtis Seltzer recently wrote an article posted over on the LandThink blog about easements, and when you should and should not buy landlocked properties. In October 2008 Curtis wrote a couple of articles explaining easements. This is a real opportunity to read up on a subject that is all to familiar to people in my industry and almost completely not understood by the general public. If you work correctly with a landlocked property, it can be a GREAT investment. If you do not, it can be a nightmare. Take a look at these three articles:
What’s an Easement Part 1 – http://www.landthink.com/land-ownership/easements/whats-an-easement-part-i/
What’s an Easement Part 2 – http://www.landthink.com/land-ownership/easements/whats-an-easement-part-ii/
Should you Buy Property Without an Easement? –