Failure to Maintain a Class V Road
for Five Successive Years
A highway may be reclassified from Class V to Class VI by the town’s failure to maintain and repair the road in suitable condition for travel thereon for five successive years or more. RSA 229:5, VII. Any person can avert the reclassification by notifying the town of the road’s inadequacies within the five-year period.
Upon receipt of such notice of insufficiency, and unless the highway agents or street commissioners determine in good faith that no such insufficiency exists, the municipality immediately shall cause proper danger signals to be placed to warn persons by day or night of such insufficiency, and shall, within 72 hours thereafter, develop a plan for repairing such highway, bridge, or sidewalk and shall implement such plan in good faith and with reasonable dispatch until the highway, bridge, or sidewalk is no longer insufficient, as defined by RSA 231:90, II. RSA 231:91, I.
If the municipality fails to act, it shall be liable for all personal injury or property damages proximately caused by the insufficiency identified in the notice, subject to statutory liability limits. A municipality does not have the power to arbitrarily stop maintaining a highway. To relinquish responsibility for maintaining a highway under RSA 229:5, VII, the highway must be rarely traveled.
“Maintain” as applied to this statute means “to keep in a state of repair…, to preserve from decline.” Snowplowing alone generally does not constitute maintenance, and other work, such as repaving or patching, must be performed.
“Any public highway which at one time lapsed to Class VI status due to 5-years’ nonmaintenance, as set forth in RSA 229:5, VII, but which subsequently has been regularly maintained and repaired by the town on more than a seasonal basis and in suitable condition for year-round travel thereon for at least 5 successive years without being declared an emergency lane pursuant to RSA 231:59-a, shall be deemed a Class V highway.” RSA 229:5, VI.
Reclassification from Class V to Class VI due to the failure to maintain for five successive years does not terminate the public’s right to travel on the road.
If a city or town accepts from the state a class V highway established to provide a property owner or property owners with highway access to such property because of a taking under RSA 230:14 (state highway layout procedure), then notwithstanding RSA 229:5, VII, such a highway shall not lapse to class VI status due to failure of the city or town to maintain and repair it for 5 successive years, and the municipality’s duty of maintenance shall not terminate, except with the written consent of the property owner or property owners. RSA 231:3, II.
No vote or other action of the governing body shall be effective to reclassify a class IV or V highway as a class VI highway, except for the failure to maintain and repair that highway in suitable condition for travel thereon for 5 or more successive years as provided by RSA 229:5, VII. RSA 231:45-a, II.