Landlocked is a common term in New Hampshire. I have heard so many landowners use this term when they believe their land, or land they want to purchase, has no access. However, what most of those landowners do not realize is that there is very little landlocked land located in New Hampshire. First, let’s determine the answer to the question, “What does landlocked mean?” since we cannot determine where the landlocked land is located unless we understand what it really is. Land-locked land is land that is not accessible. If your land has no direct access to any public streets, accessing it requires crossing over land owned by another person. Most of the time, the land you cross over is called an easement.
Most landowners that state their land is landlocked don’t realize their land has actual access. It is possible to do extensive research to determine that an implied easement exists. This research needs to be done when there is no deed or court decree stating an easement is in place.
3 Steps to Determine if a Property is Truly Landlocked
Honestly, you can get really technical when determining whether or not a property is landlocked. However, I find that the three steps I take are enough to find the answer quickly and efficiently.
1.Search the Title
The first step I take is to search the title all the way back to the original subdivision. The original title shows who created the easement and where it was located. It is important to note that you can only create an easement on land you personally own. Sometimes an easement was lost through eminent domain, mainly when other houses are constructed in a neighboring development.
2. Check if Express Access was Created
Back parcels with no express access are what I am looking for during the second step. If I find no express access in the back, then I determine that space can benefit from an easement by necessity.
3. Check for Evidence of Access
The last thing I do is check to see if the original landowner considered accessing the property from specific areas. This usually shows that the landowner wanted to have an easement, but it wasn’t possible. There is normally no doubt in my mind that an easement was simply not possible if a landowner didn’t follow through with their plans to put an easement in place.
When you are trying to establish an easement out of necessity, you will want to follow these three steps. The goal is to determine that the landowner did not address access. At that point, your argument turns from establishing an easement to how wide the easement can be.
According to most zoning ordinances in the state, a road must be fifty feet wide. Therefore, you would think that an easement would need to be at least that wide. But that is not always the case.
There will be times when no easement would have ever been implied. In those scenarios, you are stuck with a piece of land that is definitely landlocked. Although, you might be able to fight that the easement is necessary and you may get lucky.
You may think there is a lot of land in New Hampshire that is landlocked, but that is not really the case. While much of that land doesn’t have obvious access, most of it does allow access from a specific area. Unfortunately, you must hire an attorney to complete the research or do the research on your own. If access is found, we can get a court order to establish an easement in writing.
The takeaway from all of this is you should never assume land you want to purchase in New Hampshire is landlocked, even if the real estate agent says it is. Instead, you must assume it has access and you only need to determine where that access is located.
If you are struggling with landlocked land or other real estate property issues, contact us today. Don’t let your dream property go without exploring all avenues!