Gaining a property easement is not so easy

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Dear Steve,
I purchased a completely landlocked property recently. There is one resident owner between my property and the road and he refuses to grant access. Any ideas?
— Christopher P.

Dear Christopher,
Do you own a helicopter? How about a parachute?

Kidding. Sort of. Let’s hope you can gain access to your land in a more conventional way. In most of these cases, there is a solution — albeit a very expensive solution sometimes. And we’re seeing these situations with increased regularity as more hard-to-access land gets peddled on the Internet and other venues, sometimes sight unseen by the buyer. The lure, of course, is the price. But in too many instances, you get what you pay for.

Let’s first define “landlocked” as it applies to residential real estate. Just because a property does not have an existing road doesn’t make it landlocked. “Landlocked” is when no right of way whatsoever exists to a property. So before doing anything, make sure to go to the city or county planning office to look at your property survey to determine if it really is landlocked or if there is a marked easement somewhere.

Even if there is an easement, you will still have to negotiate with the owner and pay for construction of a driveway. Understand, too, that an original easement may not transfer when a property changes hands, so a title search may be in order for your plot and your neighbor’s plot. And you will also have to make sure that what you plan, be it a road or a house or both, does not violate area zoning laws.

Often, a land owner’s initial “refusal” to grant access simply means you haven’t offered enough money. Or it may also mean that your planned development there is perceived to be obtrusive, inconvenient or undesirable in some form to the other owner, who probably won’t relish the ensuing noise, traffic or construction-related issues if you plan to build. So what motive does he or she have to grant such an easement?

For the right price, of course, the owner may eventually consent to sell you a narrow strip on his or her boundary line. Some states such as Texas are more apt to support claims of “easement by necessity,” although these claims are by no means a slam-dunk strategy. There is also a good chance you will have to find legal representation. So much for “cheap” land, eh?

Know what you’re buying, folks!

And good luck.