If you purchase a smaller tract of land that has been split from a larger tract, it is always wise to make sure your smaller tract fronts a public road for access. If you purchase landlocked property, you may have legal rights in Tennessee to use an easement across the seller's or a neighbor's property. These legal rights, however, may not be easy to explain to a person denying you access. You should take steps to secure your rights.
Acquire a Deeded Easement
If a private drive from a public road already exists to your property, you should attempt to acquire an easement, or deeded right to cross the drive. This may require a title search to determine the drive's owner and to determine if there are any lien holders who have acquired rights in the drive. Have an attorney prepare an easement deed to be signed by the drive's owner. The easement deed should state that the easement is appurtenant, or goes with, your land and provides access to it. Any mortgage or lien holders who have an interest in the drive should also sign, giving consent or subordinating their lien to the easement being deeded. If no existing drive is in place, it may be necessary to obtain a survey and construct a drive across the access property.
Grant a Public Right-of-Way
If you and several neighbors are using the same private roadway for access, it might be appropriate to contact the county or city government to ask them to accept the drive for maintenance as a public road. If the private road provides access to several parcels of land and is being used by the mail, garbage trucks and other city or county vehicles, they may be willing. The county or city will probably have an attorney on staff to prepare a right-of-way deed for all the land owners to sign granting the public right-of-way.
File an Easement-by-Necessity Lawsuit
Are you landlocked and deadlocked? If you have made repeated requests to one or more adjacent property owners to deed you an easement to a public road and have met with resistance from everyone, then you may have to go to court. Tennessee law recognizes easements by necessity, meaning that everyone has the right to access his property. Your attorney may file suit in court requesting such an easement. Once the court determines property is landlocked, it will appoint a jury to determine compensation to the owner against whom the easement is awarded and to determine the location of the easement. Tennessee law states that once you gain alternate public access to your property, an easement by necessity terminates. Don't expend time and money building a road along a court-granted easement in the face of public talk of a public road along the edge of your property in the near future.
- LandAmerica: Easements
- Bankers Title of East Tennessee, LLC: Title Insurance Overview
- Ducks Unlimited: Conservation Easements
- Bass, Berry, Sims: Litigating About the Road Less Taken
- Tennessee Construction Law: Easement by Necessity for Landlocked Property Terminates when other Means of Ingress and Egress Become Available
- Small village road in one of the native Russian villages. image by Goldenwing from Fotolia.com