Habitual life in the suburbs can often form a set of relationship standards with those living around you. Formed as you go about your daily business, you probably don’t even notice the perfunctory smile as you pass on the footpath, or the cursory nod as you pass taking out the bins. All very pleasant. But what happens if those relationships turn sour, and suddenly those neighbours aren’t so keen to share their pathways? Or have been less than considerate when maintaining their property? Or worse still, restrict access to your own property? These may lead to right of way disputes.
What is a right of way?
A right of way is also legally known as an easement. An easement is a right given to a particular individual or group of individuals, to gain access to one piece of land or property, owned by another.
The more commonly known public rights of way include footpaths, bridleways, restricted byways and byways; these can be used by all vehicular traffic and members of the public. A private right of way may exist on the same line as a public but generally, they exist separately.
An example of a private right of way may be the access to the rear entrances of properties in a row of terraced houses. The leading alleyways and entrances to the gardens would be a right of way for the owners of those houses.
Right of way disputes
In an ideal world, property disputes would not occur. However, reality is not quite so simple. Often disputes are purely due to poor communication or worse, inconsideration of the affected parties. Common private right of way disputes may include:
- A property owner planning a development obstructing or adjacent to the right of way.
- Deciding who pays for the maintenance of the easement.
- Blockage or restriction of access to the easement.
- The owner wishing to change the route of the right of way.
- Security changes to a property that impact access, for example placing locked gates across the right of way.
Finding a resolution
Local authorities tend not to get involved in private property disputes, unless they have an interest in the disputed right of way. Where possible, private disputes should be resolved between the parties themselves.
Sometimes, an uncomfortable conversation alone can result in a satisfactory resolution. It is worth discussing the historical and current usage of the right of way, to ensure all parties are aware of the impact of the dispute. There may also be documents that could assist with finding a resolution. For example, property title certificates and/or conveyance deeds may confirm that there is a right of way. These documents may even evidence the terms of your right of way and provide a description of the area. Further, they may even state who is responsible for its maintenance. This kind of resolution requires communication, cooperation and honesty from both parties. Where any one of those is not present, the next step may be dispute mediation.
Where discussion has failed or if the relationship has deteriorated so much that any conversation is unequivocally off the table, dispute mediation may be the solution. Mediation is the use of the neutral third party to negotiate an appropriate outcome which satisfies both parties in a dispute. Property dispute mediation cannot be underestimated as a practical solution for finding a reasonable resolution, and possibly avoiding unnecessary and uncomfortable litigation. Of course this process relies upon the consent and cooperation of the parties. Without that, the mediation process cannot proceed.
Property Resolution People offer mediation services for property disputes across Kent and Medway. If you would like to know more about our services, please get in touch.