Some of the most beautiful remote properties come hand in hand with distinctly rural access. Buyers’ immediate thoughts may involve what kind of vehicle will be required to deal with rough terrain, especially in winter months. But Clare Coode of Stacks Property Search advises buyers to look carefully into the detail surrounding access roads that aren’t owned by the property or by the council.
She says, “Access tracks to remote rural properties, especially farmhouses, are often owned by another party, often a local farmer. The property will almost certainly have a right of way over the track, but checking this vital fact in itself shouldn’t be where your investigations start and end.
“Questions you should take up at an early stage with the vendor or agent, and through your solicitor include:
- Who owns the access?
- Who is responsible for its maintenance?
- In what kind of document is this formalised?
- Is the owner entitled to block the track at any time or for any reason, for example can he put gates across it?
- Will future buyers be able to get a mortgage on the property if there is only a right of way over the track and no onus on the farmer to repair?
“The first thing to do is to examine the title deeds/land registry of both the subject property and the track. This may give some clues as to rights and obligations.
“In the majority of cases, the buyer will find the property owner has a right of way. If it has been formalised in a deed, it will say something like the “right to pass and repass at all times on foot, with cattle or a vehicle”. One would hope there is an obligation on the owner of the track not to obstruct it but often in rural areas neither this right nor obligation will be written down. In which case you will be relying on goodwill.
“A further problem is that even if the owner of the track is required to maintain the track, there may be some significant difference in both parties’ idea of what a well-maintained track looks like.”