Who owns a private road? Are residents responsible for maintaining it?

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There was a time when house buyers sought out a home on a private road as it held great appeal due to the exclusivity attached to it.

However, it is now increasingly common for new housing developments to be built on private roads that are not taken over by the local authority (known as ‘unadopted roads’).

As a result, more people are finding themselves in this position, but not through choice.

This situation obviously has its advantages, such as improved security, better control over parking and enhanced property values.

But potential disadvantages can also be a cause of concern.

How will communal areas, roads, lighting, signage or play areas be maintained?

What about the lack of local authority services such as gritting, road sweeping and drain gully clearance? Is there a need for insurance? And will there be disagreements between residents over costs and maintenance?

These areas of uncertainty are main reason why the management team at Garness Jones Residential are seeing an increase in demand for specialist services across Hull, York and the surrounding areas.

People often don’t want the headaches that can come with living in a private road. Fortunately, we can help to take them away.

What the private roads UK law says

According to the Highways Act 1980, a private road (or ‘unadopted’ road) is any highway that’s not maintained at public expense.

The law on the maintenance and adoption of private roads in England and Wales is a highly complex area - and full details can be found here on the Government website.

Essentially, there are two main types of ‘unadopted’ roads:

Private Street – A privately-maintained road where the public has a right of way. If it needs repairing, the local authority has the right to make it safe under the Highways Act and charge residents for the work.

Private Road – A road where no public right of way exists. Residents are solely responsible for any repairs. These roads must be gated, unless registered, at least once a year to prevent through traffic, but this is usually the case all the time.

Who is responsible for maintaining a private road?

The local highway authority is under no obligation to pay for the maintenance of any ‘unadopted’ or private road.

The owners of properties which front onto private roads (known as ‘frontagers’) are responsible for paying for any repairs or maintenance required.

If there is a danger to traffic in a private road, the law allows the local street works authority to demand that frontagers undertake the necessary repairs under ‘statutory provision’. Fail to do so and the authority can carry out the repairs before recovering the costs from the frontagers.

Depending on the nature of the case, frontagers do have the right to object to the authority making a demand for payment for any repairs they carry out on a private road.

All unresolved objections will be heard by a Magistrate's Court, who decide whether the authority can demand payment. Any homeowner who is unhappy with the Magistrate’s decision do have the right to appeal against the demanded sum to the Secretary of State for Transport.

Should residents insure their private road?

Whilst there is no legal obligation to insure a private road, it’s definitely a good idea – especially if you want to avoid being held liable in the event of an accident.

Taking out private road insurance or public liability insurance offers peace of mind for residents and will protect them from footing the bill in the event of claim being made.

How to best manage your private road

If you’re thinking of buying a house in a Private Road, or if you already own one, it often pays to do a little bit of research.

If you can, try to find out:

·  Is there an active and well-run residents' association?

·  Or is the road managed by an outside management company?

·  What are your exact responsibilities as a resident?

 Living on a private road is not something which should be taken lightly because of the ongoing management charges you’ll be required to pay.

Basically, homeowners who live on ‘unadopted’ developments or roads are legally responsible for every aspect of their maintenance.

If the worst was to happen and the road collapsed, you’ll need to make sure there are sufficient funds to pay for the repairs.

At Garness Jones, we manage and maintain private roads on behalf of homeowners in Hull, York and the surrounding areas.

If occupants are unhappy with the service provided by their existing management company, we can take over or help set up a residents’ association so the owners can manage their affairs with far greater control.

By working closely with neighbouring homeowners, we could help to make expensive and ever-increasing maintenance charges a thing of the past – and minimise the financial risks you face.

If this sounds like a community-focused approach that could work for you, please call 01482 564564 for an informal discussion.