- What is a private road? A private road is a road over which a limited number of people have the right to pass. In contrast, public roads are roads over which the entire travelling public have the right to pass. Private roads often are created with a written easement, but they also can be created without a written easement. For example, recording a subdivision plan showing roads and lots, and then selling lots with reference to the plan, may create give the lot owners an implied easement to use the roads to access their lots.
- What is the difference between a private road and a Class VI road? The two are somewhat similar, in that municipalities are not obligated to maintain either one, but the similarities end there. The entire travelling public have the right to use Class VI roads, whereas only a limited number of people may use private roads. Municipalities have the power to permit snowmobiles and off highway recreational vehicles to use Class VI roads, whereas they have no such power over private roads. Municipalities also have other, limited powers to regulate Class VI roads not available to them for private roads.
- Can I get a building permit on a private road? Yes, but you may need to jump through a few hoops. The statute governing building permits on private roads is NH RSA 674:41. If the private road is shown on the municipality’s “official map,” or shown on a subdivision or street plan approved by the planning board, you should satisfy RSA 674:41. If not, you will need the approval of the board of selectmen (governing body) with input from the planning board, and you will need to acknowledge in writing that the municipality does not assume responsibility to maintain the road, or to be liable for personal injury.
- Who maintains a private road? Unless there is an agreement among the property owners addressing maintenance, each residential owner must contribute equitably to the reasonable cost of maintaining the private road, and shall have the right to bring a civil action to enforce that requirement. Any owner of a residential property abutting a private road who directly or indirectly damages any portion of such road shall be solely responsible for repairing or restoring the damaged portion.
- What is a private road maintenance agreement? A private road maintenance agreement is an agreement among all persons benefitting from a private road addressing maintenance and payment issues. Private road maintenance agreements generally address who is bound by the agreement, what sort of maintenance work should be performed, who makes that decision, how much money must each lot owner contribute, and the consequences for non-payment.
Paul J. Alfano