If there’s one land related topic more misunderstood than this one please let me know. Everyone has some kind of definition of being “landlocked” and most are not even close to reality. So what is it? How can I avoid it? What if I find out I’m landlocked? all kinds of questions so let’s cover it …….
Landlocked simply means “no legal means of access”. We’re assuming ,of course , the land has no frontage on any public road. Does that mean you have no options if you’re landlocked ? Not at all , there are plenty of options and at least one will work. Let’s establish one important fact concerning landlocked property here in NYS. There’s no such thing because it’s illegal in NY to be landlocked. The only question is how to gain access and by what path/means will a person accomplish this. For our example we’ll discuss a property “you” own and have found out has no legal access right now. What might happen is the property that has been crossed for access in the past has changed hands. The new owner thinks he’s going to stop you from accessing your property by crossing his land. What to do and how to do it?
The most obvious place to look right off the bat is the route previous owners used to access the land we’re using in our example. Since the place has no frontage on a public road/highway we’ll assume the previous owners have been using some kind of private drive/road/driveway on a neighboring property to access the land. So the previous owners were using some old dirt road to get back to this land you own. This has been going on for decades perhaps but as long as it’s been going on for 10 or more years then you cannot be stopped. This is not an ideal situation but the fact is NYS recognizes this situation as a means of legal access providing the usage of this trail/road has been going on for 10 or more yrs in an “open and notorious” manner. Meaning just that , the person who owned that road knew you or the previous owner of your property were using it openly and regularly. If you have been using this road for access the last 2 years and the previous owner(s) were using it for 8 or more years then you cannot be legally stopped from accessing your land by using this road. This is commonly referred to as a “prescriptive easement” and it’s applied a lot more than the average person might suspect. Although this is not an ideal solution it is a means of protecting access that was already in existence. If this isn’t ideal then what is?
The most valuable , indisputable easement for access is referred to as an “easement appurtenant”. This is an easement which is permanent , “runs with the land” and is transferrable to future owners of the property. It’s airtight and as safe as it gets. Often times you will find land that is accessed by some kind of right of way has an easement appurtenant for the access.In fact , it’s probably the case in the overwhelming percentage of right of way properties. If you’re interested in buying some land , especially in NY , that has this type of easement I wouldn’t have any concerns about buying the place. It’s safe and proven so don’t let it stop you.
Occasionally you will run into a situation where the property has what’s called an “easement in gross” that allows access to a property. This easement is for the present owner of the property and is not transferrable to successors or heirs. This expires when the owner of the property who exercises this easement expires. This ain’t good! Sometimes you will find an easement in gross is confused as a “personal right of license”. They are not the same so pay attention to this one. A right of license can be terminated at any time by the property owner who’s land you may be crossing to get to your land. An easement in gross cannot be terminated and will only expire when the owner of the “no access” land dies. In either case I wouldn’t even consider buying land under these circumstances until a permanent , transferrable easement is acquired. That would be the responsibility of the people who are selling the land that doesn’t have access that’s permanent.
When all else fails your last hope is an “easement by necessity”. This will be granted by some court eventually after all other options have been exhausted. Long story short , get a lawyer and some coin , you’re going to need both. What will happen is someone will have to decide one option is better than the others and you as the owner of the no access property will be left with trying to prove one is better and having to pay someone to get it. This takes time and it will cost considerable money to establish a right of way. Do yourself a favor and don’t even consider going this route. It’s a pain in the ass and takes too much time , costs too much money.
Rights of way can be intimidating so be sure you have a lawyer who’s looking out for you and insuring your investment is safe. Having bought/sold a lot of land over the years I can tell you I’ve only had a couple instances where rights of way are part of the deal. Typically I stay away from these situations unless it’s absolutely documented , the right of way is visibly located on the ground and no one is disputing anything. Anything less than that isn’t worth the effort in my opinion. I can guarantee you this , if the rare case comes up where I have land for sale in NY with a right of way you can bet it’s safe. If you’d like to talk about land for sale in NY where there’s no right of way issues give me a shout! I’ve got a lot of guaranteed access land with no strings attached that’s ready for you right now. Thanks for stopping , please share with your friends and SIGN UP for all the latest concerning land for sale in NY and all you need to know before you buy. Take care , keep warm! mj