Buying A House On A Private Road: Quiet Charm Or Potential Pitfalls? 

Buying A House On A Private Road Quiet Charm Or Potential Pitfalls
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Finding the right property to buy can be a long and tiring journey. At Property Road, we’re here to make the process as easy and simple as possible. Unfortunately, there’s one extra factor that you will need to consider when buying a property: the type of road it’s on. 

Buying a house on a private road might sound peaceful and idyllic… but there are some legal downsides to private roads that you need to be aware of before making your offer.

In this blog, we’ll cover what it means to buy a property on a private road and provide a handy checklist to help you decide if this house is the one or not worth the extra headaches. 

What does a private road mean in the UK?

In the UK, a private road (also known as an unadopted road) is one that isn’t owned or maintained by the local council. 

It is normally the responsibility of the local highway authority to repair, maintain and upkeep the condition of roads (we’ll refrain from making a comment about the pothole problem in the UK here).

For private roads, this all falls under the road’s owner, who could be a sole owner or shared between different properties that live on the road. 

There are two types of access for public roads:

A private road with public right of way means that members of the public can walk or drive on the private road. This could mean the road is degraded faster, resulting in higher maintenance costs for the owner. 

A private road with no public right of way means only authorised individuals can access the road, i.e. residents and visitors. These are usually found in gated communities (where you need to have a passcode to enter) and can mean that the road stays in better condition for longer, meaning fewer maintenance costs. 

Regardless of the road type, there is one important thing to remember when buying a house on a private road. You will need to think about the cost and responsibility of maintaining the road if it falls under your ownership—and the pitfalls that come with it. 

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Ownership of private roads

Unadopted roads can be owned by:

  • A single property
  • Several or all the properties that are on the road
  • The developer

Just because you’re buying a house on a private road doesn’t automatically mean that the road ownership is yours (or that you get a right of access, which we’ll cover more later).

Depending on the listing, some estate agents may already provide information on ownership and access.

Otherwise, you can usually find out who owns the private road by checking if there is a right of access in the Title Register provided by the Land Registry

Benefits of private roads

The benefits of living in a house on a private road can differ by location and road type i.e. whether it’s available for public access or not. Generally speaking, the advantages are:

Increased privacy and tranquillity

Less access means fewer cars and traffic in your area, which makes for a quieter and more private location to love.

Increased parking opportunities

You’ll have less time searching for a spot on your street. 

Safer for children

With less traffic and cars, it’s a safer environment for the tots to play and walk around.

Enhanced security

If the private road is within a restricted gated community, only authorised individuals can access your road. 

In addition, these advantages mean that properties on private roads sometimes have higher property values than similar houses on public roads.

If you’re looking for properties that will keep their value to resell later on, a house on an unadopted road could be a good investment. 

Disadvantages of private roads

Buying a house on a private road requires a potential buyer to weigh the pros and cons of the road. Some may require more maintenance or require you to pay for insurance.

Before buying a house on a private road, you must be aware of the potential disadvantages and liabilities that you will be responsible for, such as:

Costs of road repair and maintenance

These could range from a small maintenance fee shared between properties to several thousand to repair major faults or for a complete resurfacing.

Private road is under shared ownership

There could be disagreements with neighbours about costs, leading to delayed repairs and further damage to the road. This could also increase your car costs if you drive on uneven surfaces for an extended period. 

Additional insurance costs for the private road

Some private roads can be easily accessible by the public. Insurance may protect you and cover an unforeseeable indemnity claim for third-party injuries.

Lack of street lighting

This could make your property a tempting target for theft. It could also mean extra costs in installing lights and security systems to protect your property and act as a deterrent. 

Disputes or fees for access to the private road

You may have to pay for access if there is a gap between the private road boundary and the nearest public road.

You need to do proper research to not to be quickly surprised and overwhelmed by these added costs. Like buying any property, it’s all about knowing what you’re going into. But that’s exactly what this guide is for. 

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Costs involved in owning a property on a private road

As mentioned, private road owners (also called frontagers) are responsible for maintaining the road and paying the costs associated with doing so. 

Predicting maintenance costs will depend on both how ownership is shared and the condition of the road.

Some private roads with shared ownership will have a proportional split for each property. So if you only pay 10% of any maintenance cost, and the road needs a £5,000 repair, you will only need to cover £500. 

In some cases, homeowners will set up a special residents’ association or private management company to manage the road’s upkeep and maintenance on their behalf.

This usually means that you pay an annual fee to the company to cover all ongoing repairs. Any unused budget will be saved for major problems or returned to owners at the end of the year. 

In addition to maintenance costs, you might also be required to pay for insurance, which we’ll cover below. 

Insurance for private roads 

There is no legal requirement for insurance on private roads, but some associations or private management companies may require it.

Even if insurance isn’t required, it can be a wise investment to protect you if someone gets hurt or their property is damaged while using the road.

For example, let’s say that a pothole develops on your road. A driver uses the road and goes over the pothole unseen, which pops a tire and causes an accident and personal injury.

Without insurance, you could be liable for paying their accident and medical bills. 

Speaking of insurance, it may be wise to look into a home buyer’s protection insurance in case this deal doesn’t go through. Check out our article here.

Warning signs for private roads to look out for 

Buying a house on a private road may come with its own set of headaches. For example, an unadopted road may be connected to a ransom strip. It's a difficult situation to be in when you don't have rights to access your private road.

If you’re considering buying a property on an unadopted road, you should check for previous agreements that were in place for previous owners, as private road access is not guaranteed. 

One of the biggest drawbacks to buying a house on a private road is entering situations where you do not have a right of access to the road.

This happens when a gap exists between the boundary of the property or road and the public road. 

Even if this gap is just a few centimetres across, you could face legal problems if you don’t have a right of access to this land. In some cases, you might need to pay the owner for the rights to access.

Interestingly enough, these strips of land between a public road boundary and property are called ‘ransom strips’ as the owners could demand high ransoms to sell or grant access. If the house you’re considering doesn’t have the right of access, you may have to enter a negotiation or pay a large amount of money for this right. 

It’s also important to examine the condition of the road and ask what recent maintenance has been carried out. If the road looks worn out or has many potholes, you could face high maintenance fees to fix it.

In worst-case scenarios, repairs might not be carried out because owners are unable to agree on repair costs. 

Buying a house on a private road: the ultimate checklist 

Should you buy a property on a private road or not? To help you make the decision, we’ve put all the essential information into a simple checklist. 

ItemDescription 
Legalities and access
Road ownershipWho owns the private road? Is it shared or individual ownership? 
Right of wayDoes your property deed guarantee a right of way to access the public road via the private road?
Public accessIs there a public right of way for the road?
Maintenance and costs 
How are maintenance responsibilities shared?Does every property have an equal share, or is it proportionally split based on location, size, etc?
Is there a management company or shared association? Ask previous tenants or neighbours what costs they’ve paid in recent years to get an idea of what it may cost you. 
What are the current maintenance costs?Is there public access to the road, or is it restricted to residents only? Is it a gated community? 
What condition is the road in?What are the costs associated with the company or association, and how are maintenance funds used (e.g., kept in reserve for blogger repairs or returned to owners if unused)? 
Do you need insurance? Does the management or shared association need insurance, or are you covered? How much is it? 
Day-to-day considerations 
TrafficHow busy is the road compared to public roads in the area?
ParkingAre there any parking restrictions? What is space availability like?
LightingDo you have enough street lighting, or will you need to invest in lights and security systems alone? 

If you’re considering buying a house on a private road, it may also be worth consulting a solicitor for more tailored advice on your exact property. 

For all-over tips and help to purchase a house, keep up to date with Property Road.

Author

  • Property Road

    Founded in 2017, Property Road is one of the UK’s leading independent property websites for consumers, focused on educating buyers, sellers, investors, and homeowners on all things property related. It's run by a team of experienced property owners, investors, and a former estate agent.

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