When you buy an existing home, you'll make sure you have utilities (power, water, septic or sewer and telephone) to the house. You'll also make sure there is a public or private street to the home.
When you buy a lot, access to the lot may not be obvious. There may be another property between you and the road. Any utilities in the area may have to cross another property to get to your new lot. How do you make sure that you can legally get to the lot, and that utilities can be brought to the lot?
When you go into escrow on any land purchase, a title company will be asked, as part of the purchase, to insure title to the property. This happens for a house as well as for a lot of vacant land. The title company will also provide a preliminary title report that contains a plat map
Beware the Landlocked Lot
The worst case scenario is that a lot is actually landlocked, meaning that it has no legal easement to a public street. Typically, lots like this are sold at a low price, perhaps because the seller can't be bothered negotiating (and usually paying for) an easement through one or more neighbor's properties. If you own a landlocked lot it is certainly worth approaching the neighbors to try to obtain an easement, There are also legal remedies that may be attempted, although the advice of a real estate attorney should be sought before embarking on any of them. These solutions include:
(A) Suing to establish a 'common way of necessity'
Did a previous owner of multiple lots including the landlocked lot deed the landlocked lot away without providing access? A court might grant access as a 'common way of necessity'
(B) Suing for 'condemnation of a private way of necessity'
If (A) can't be proven, some states allow the landlocked lot owner to force the owner or owners of adjacent lots to grant a 'private way of necessity'. However, the owner of the landlocked lot will have to compensate the other lot owners.
(C) Suing to establish an 'easement implied by prior use, or a prescriptive easement'
The owner of the landlocked lot would have to prove that access to the landlocked lot has been in use for some time, and that it was not allowed by the owner of the adjacent lot.
This website has been written and developed by Rob Ransom, PhD. Rob has extensive experience working with buyers and sellers of vacant land in San Diego County, CA. Although Rob currently has a California real estate license he is retired from selling real estate.
If you have comments or suggestions regarding this web site, email Rob at the address below.
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