Buying a House in a Private Road
Are private roads a good thing?
In many ways, the answer is "Yes". Residents in a private road may enjoy:
- Some control over their immediate surroundings, perhaps including the ability to regulate development, by granting or refusing new rights of way, and/or to control parking.
- Increased amenity and security.
- A measure of exclusivity, and hence enhanced property values.
These advantages are usually well worth the effort and cost of looking after the road, which is modest if shared between residents. Private roads remain very popular, and developers often lay out new houses in roads which will remain private.
1. If you are thinking of buying a house in an established private road, your solicitor (or licensed conveyancer) will be able to check whether there is an active residents' association or management company, and if so how it works and what obligations and rights residents may have. You may find that banks and building societies are reluctant to fund purchases without obtaining some reassurance that all is in order with the organisation of the road and that there are no problems with legal issues such as rights of way.
If there is an active and well-run residents' association or company you can usually buy with confidence. If not, a degree of circumspection may be wise, in view of the problems which may arise in the absence of proper organisation.
2. New roads are usually built on the basis of an agreement, made under s. 38 of the Highways Act 1980, that the road will be adopted by the local authority. "Adoption" means that the road will become a "highway maintainable at the public expense", the consequences being that the road will belong to the local authority; that there will be a public right of way; and that the local authority will have a permanent duty to maintain the road. Before adoption, the developer will have to construct the road to the satisfaction of the local authority; and there is typically a 12-month period, after the work is completed, during which the developer must maintain the road, before the local authority adopt it. Houses will thus often be sold and occupied before adoption takes place. If you are buying a house in new road which is going to be adopted, your solicitors will need to make careful enquiries of the local authority and the developer, so that you can be confident that all the necessary work will be completed and that the road will in due course adopted. If the developer goes bust after completing and selling the houses, but before the road has been adopted, residents are likely to find themselves in a difficult position.