Right of way discovered in Southampton

Buyers will usually be informed by their Solicitor Conveyancing in Southampton that the property has the benefit of a private right of way. In some cases, an adjoining owner will have a right of way over part of the property they are buying. For most this will not be a problem, as the right of way will be over a path or drive, and will be obvious to anyone looking at the property. In rare situations, however, things are not so straightforward, and buyers may encounter difficulties.

Common examples of these rights for Southampton houses include shared pathways leading to the rear gardens of terraced houses, and houses which have the benefit of a shared rear access roadway providing access to garages in their rear gardens. Often the ownership of the actual road or pathway is unclear, and usually little attempt is made to carry out any regular maintenance, although individual owners may fill in the worst of the pot-holes.

While Conveyancing Solicitors will always try to explain the existence of any such rights to Southampton buyers, in some cases their existence is not recorded in the legal documentation. Because the modern system of land registration did not become compulsory in Southampton until 1975, details of such rights of way may not be fully recorded for all properties even when the title is now registered. Old title deeds did not always set out such rights fully, and adjoining owners may have acquired rights by long use. The law relating to right of way has developed over many years, especially in respect of the acquisition of rights by long use, and is very complicated. Land registry titles should include details of any known rights, but cannot be regarded as comprehensive.

How can a right of way be clarified?

Although buyers Conveyancing Solicitors make enquiries relating to rights of way, sellers may not always reveal relevant information. The title may show that the buyer should have a right of way, but finds that an adjoining owner has blocked the route so that it cannot be used. In other cases, the buyer finds that and adjoining owner claims a right of way over the property which was not referred to in the title and not disclosed by the seller.

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Your Solicitor will tell you about any rights referred to in the title, or which the seller has mentioned in replies to enquiries, but he or she will not have personally inspected the property, so may not be aware of everything affecting it.

Arguments often arise between owners as to who is responsible for repairing and maintaining the route of a right of way. Property transfers often include provisions for all users of a right to contribute to maintenance costs, but do not require any particular owner to carry out repairs.

Generally speaking, the owner of the land over which the right runs is not obliged to carry out maintenance, but if he does so then he can claim contributions from the other users. Any user may carry out repairs to any part of the access way that he needs to use, but at his own expense.

If you are buying a house in the region, it is as well to ask your Southampton Conveyancing Solicitor whether the property is affected by any rights. Buyers should also take the trouble to inspect any rights of way that benefit their property, to check that the right can actually be used, and also to see if any maintenance might be required.