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FAQs


FAQs on private roads

Q1.1 How can I tell whether a road is private?

The highway authority - usually the County Council - keeps a statutory list of "highways maintainable at the public expense". If the road is on this list it is not a private road. If it isn't on the list, it is almost certainly a private road; though it may nonetheless be a highway for one or more classes of traffic, e.g. a footpath, meaning that there is a public right of way for pedestrians.

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Q1.2 Is there a difference between a private road and a private street?

A. There's no legal difference, though local authorities and others sometime use these terms as a matter of convenience to differentiate between (for example) roads with houses and roads without, or between through-roads and cul-de-sacs.

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Q1.3 Does motoring law apply in private roads?

A. This depends upon the legal status of the road.  For a full explanation see Private Roads:  The Legal Framework, 5th ed, chapters 1 and 8.

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Q1.4 Can we install electrically controlled gates or a barrier, to stop the public using our road?

A. This raises several legal issues;  in particular, whether there is a public right of way for vehicles.  If so, the public right of way must not be obstructed, since this is an offence.

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Q1.5 Do we need to insure?

A. There is no legal obligation to do so;  but if you are looking after your private road then you may be held liable in the event of an accident.  So there is a good case for taking out public liability insurance, whether through our scheme or some other insurer - see our Insurance pages, and our FAQs on insurance for more information.

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Q1.6 What should I do if I am thinking of buying a house in a private road?

Please see our page on Buying a house in a private road.

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FAQs on insurance

Q2.1 Who are the insurers for the PRS scheme?

Q2.2 Why have you chosen Ansvar Insurance?A. Ansvar have a strong reputation in the "not-for-profit" sector - that is, charities and other bodies which do not trade at a profit. They are ethical insurers, and are approachable, helpful and efficient.  The scheme has been a great success for our clients and indeed for PRS, since it enables us to offer high-quality cover at very competitive rates.

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Q2.2 Why have you chosen Ansvar Insurance?

A. Ansvar have a strong reputation in the "not-for-profit" sector - that is, charities and other bodies which do not trade at a profit. They are ethical insurers, and are approachable, helpful and efficient. The scheme uses Charity and Community Connect Policy, subject to amendments made by the Schedule which goes with the policy.  The scheme has been a success for our clients and indeed for PRS, since it enables us to offer high-quality cover at  competitive rates. 

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Q2.3 Is this the cheapest policy available?

A. We hope not!  There is a demand for the cheapest possible insurance, just as there is for the cheapest car, or the cheapest pack of sausages, but it is not our aim to meet that demand.  As with cars and sausages, cheap insurance needs to be scrutinised with care.  What are the levels of cover offered?  Do the insurers have a clear understanding of the risks they are insuring?  Do they settle claims fairly and quickly, or do they look in the "small print" for reasons to avoid paying out?

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Q2.4 How does the scheme work?

A. Briefly, we are agents for Ansvar, and in carefully-defined circumstances we have their authority to initiate insurance contracts on their behalf. When queries arise, we consult the insurers.  Requests for quotations, applications for insurance cover, and queries about the scheme, should thus be addressed to us rather than to Ansvar.  And see our Step-by-step page on how to take out PRS insurance.

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Q2.5 How do we apply?

A. You can use the Apply online form to apply for PRS membership and/or insurance cover (you can have either or both) or, if you prefer to fill in a paper form, we can send you one.  Just let us know.  Before you apply, please make sure you're familiar with our Terms and Conditions, and read our Regulatory information page.

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Q2.6 What if we just want a quotation?

A. No problem - please use the quick quotation form in the panel on the right.  (Please don't use our online application form if you just want a quote.)

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Q2.7 Which sections of the policy are activated under the PRS scheme?

A. Sections 3 ("All risks" - i.e. property damage cover);  8 (public and products liability - i.e. cover against claims relating to accidents, etc); 10 (property owners' liability) and 20 (legal expenses).   In addition we can offer cover under section 20 (Trustees Indemnity) and 7 (Employers' Liability).  Please see our Insurance pages for a fuller explanation.

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Q2.8 What do we have to disclose when we apply for insurance cover?

A. An insurance contract is legally a contract "of the utmost good faith", and a person seeking insurance must make full and fair disclosure, so that the insurers can assess the risk and decide whether to accept it, and if so on what terms.  Hazards such as ponds, streams, bridges, and unusual features such as railway crossings should thus be disclosed.  Please feel free to consult us for guidance if you are not sure.

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Q2.9 Does the existence of a hazard mean that the insurers will be unable to offer cover?

A. Not at all.  Our insurers are able to offer cover in most cases, though they will expect to see sensible steps being taken to reduce risk, e.g. by fencing a pond which might be a danger to small children. That said, some features present a problem because the risk is difficult to quantify. For example, without a report from an expert it may be impossible to tell how likely an ancient bridge is to fail when subjected to modern traffic, and therefore impossible (unless you obtain a report from an expert) for the insurers to quote a fair premium for accepting the risk.

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Q2.10 What about private roads and estates in Scotland and Northern Ireland?

A. We can offer cover in such cases, subject to the approval of the insurers.  (However, we don't feel able to offer PRS membership, since Scotland has its own legal system, and the law in Northern Ireland may also be somewhat different.)

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Q2.11 Our road has a "pumping station", to raise foul water to the level of the nearest public sewer. Does this matter?

A. Provided you can say "Yes" to the conditions mentioned in paragraph 15 of the Statement of Facts form, under the sub-heading of Statement of Facts, we would expect to be able to offer cover on standard terms.

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Q2.12 Our road doesn't have a hard surface. Does this matter?

A. No, except that the excess which applies to claims for third party damage (typically a motorist who claims that his car has been damaged by a rut or pot-hole) is increased from £100 to £500. Just answer "No" on the Statement of Facts form, and let us know in a separate note that the road is unsurfaced.  (But you should bear in mind that if the surface is so bad that it is positively hazardous, the insurers would expect action to be taken to reduce the risk.)

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Q2.13 We don't own "our" road - we have tried without success to trace the owner. Is there any need to insure it?

A. If you are looking after the road, even though you don't own it, you may be held legally liable for accidents and other claims.  So there is a risk to be insured against. Insurance is not a legal requirement, but it's certainly wise - particularly public liability cover.

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Q2.14 Is PRS insurance subject to tax?

A. Yes, we are obliged to charge IPT (insurance premium tax).  On 4 January 2011 the rate increased from 5% to 6%.  The rates quoted on this website and in our literature include tax.

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Q2.15 Should I disclose things like special conditions imposed in relation to a committee member's personal travel insurance? They don't seem relevant to insurance for our road!

A.  Yes, they should be disclosed, though brief details will suffice in the first instance.  We can then confirm with the insurers that it doesn't affect cover for your road.

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Q2.16 Can we insure against our road wearing out?

Insurance is about risk.  Wear and tear is not a risk but a certainty.  So the answer is that insurance cannot help, but that you should build up funds gradually, over a period of time, to pay for resurfacing.

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Q2.17 Where are the Policy Document and Schedule for our PRS insurance?

The Policy Document is on a CD or DVD, which should be in the pocket on the inside of your PRS binder.  The Schedule should be in the binder, in the divider marked "Insurance".  The clue, as they say, lies in the title.  If for some reason the Policy and Document and/or Schedule are not there, please let us know, so we can send replacements.

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Q2.18 If residents own half the width of the road along their frontages, and their household policies cover the section of road as well as the house itself, does this mean that there's no need for any other insurance?

Not quite.  If each resident undertakes the maintenance of their own section of road, then their household policies might apply. (But it would be wise for residents to check the position with their insurers, and to look carefully at the terms of the policy.)  In practice, residents will hand over maintenance to an association or company, which will not be covered by any household policies and will therefore need its own insurance.  The policy should cover, as ours does, a range of risks - see our pages on insurance.

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Q2.19 We don't really have an association - just a fund to pay for maintenance. etc. Can we take out PRS insurance?

No!  Associations must, as our Terms and Conditions make clear, be "active":  residents must be taking decisions, and actions, collectively.  If this is not the case, it is difficult to see how the association can fulfil the duty to make proper disclose of risk, or to comply with the obligation to minimise risk. 

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FAQs on how we can help

Q3.1 Does your book contain the answer to the problem which I have?

A. Please see our page on the book, which gives a good idea of what the book covers. If you'd like to see the book before buying it, we suggest obtaining a copy from your public library - the current edition is the 5th, published in 2013.

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Q3.2 Can individuals join PRS and/or take out PRS insurance?

A. We regret not - PRS membership, and our insurance scheme, are for residents collectively, whether in the form of an association or a company (or, occasionally, some other form). Our largest members have hundreds of houses, and our smallest just a handful - membership is very much open to small roads as well as large estates. If you don't have a residents' association or company, and want to "get organised" we suggest that you buy our Starter Pack, which includes our book, precedents and guidance notes - all you need to start getting organised.

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Q3.4 Has the law changed much since the last edition of your book?

A. The law is changing, and becoming more complicated, all the time. Like all legal books, ours starts to become out of date as soon as it is published! It's not wise to rely on an old edition.

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Q3.5 How can I find a firm of solicitors who understand the particular legal problems which arise in private roads?

A. We don't maintain a list of solicitors with a particular expertise in the law relating to private roads.  Personal recommendation is often the best route to a good solicitor. Failing that, look for a firm which is medium-sized or large, rather than small. A firm which has acted in the past for developers, or for local authorities, may have experience of the relevant law, and so be well-placed to assist. A good solicitor can be expected to charge £200 or £300 an hour + VAT.

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Q3.6 Can PRS act for us as a solicitor can?

A. PRS is run by non-practising lawyers, and this means that we can't do the things which solicitors (and licensed conveyancers) can do, not least because of restrictions in the Solicitors Act 1974.  We can't draw up deeds relating to land;  nor can we start or defend legal proceedings in the courts on behalf of members.  But there is still much we can do.  For example, we can appear on behalf of members at planning appeal hearings, and at hearings before the Lands Tribunal, and we can attend meetings of residents' associations and meetings between residents' associations and bodies such as local authorities or utility companies.

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Q3.7 Do you still offer 3-year membership at a reduced price?

A. We regret not - this offer is no longer open.

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Q3.8 Can we buy a copy of your online guide for members, Managing Private Roads and Estates?

A. No, this is not published (i.e. made public) either electronically or in paper form.  It's for the use of current members only, via our website, and it is constantly being amended and expanded - which is why we keep it as an online resource.  Our book is published, and is thus on sale to the public at large.

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Q3.9 If we join PRS, do we have to keep paying the annual fee?

A. We don't feel it is right to impose such a requirement, so you can cease to be a member at the end of a year if you wish.  But we try to encourage long-term membership by keeping the membership fee as low as possible, because our aim is to help members operate successfully in the long-term - the basic idea is that prevention is better than cure, and that residents' associations should make an effort to prevent problems. Please remember too that most PRS copyright material is only for the use of current members, and that if you decide not to continue with PRS membership it must be collected and destroyed, whether it is in paper form or stored on computers.

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Q3.10 We're not members, but our association has its own website. Can we link to the PRS website? We think residents would find the information in your public pages very helpful.

A. We're usually happy to agree, but please check with us first.

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Q3.11 Do you have records of all the private roads in England and Wales?

A. Our records aren't definitive, though we have details of many private roads. We don't make this information public. A project called the National Street Gazetteer has information about roads, including information about their legal status and about the location of pipes and cables; but this seems to be available only to local authorities and the utility companies - we're not sure why access is restricted in this way.

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Q3.12 You've sent us your stock email on registering, so we can access the members' pages and/or insurance pages on your website, but we're having difficulties with the registration process.

A. The usual reason is that you've entered the password or your email address incorrectly.  Both should be entered as set out in the Essentials section of your PRS binder.   If they don't work, please contact us for assistance. 

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Q3.14 Does our association qualify for PRS membership or insurance?

We are often asked whether all residents have to join an association in order for the association to take advantage of PRS membership or insurance, to which the answer is no, provided that the association is in effective control of the road as a whole.  It is certainly necessary for an association to be a proper, functioning organisation, within which the members reach agreement and take action collectively.  If it were otherwise, the association would not be in a position to take action to minimise risk, and so would not be able to take out insurance.

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Q3.15 Does PRS act as a managing agent for private roads?

We don't offer this service. The use of managing agents often seems to be very unsatisfactory from the point of residents in a private road, with a high annual charge and poor service.  A DIY approach seems to work much better.  We regularly find residents' association turning to us for help, having "sacked" their agents and resolved to manage their road themselves.  No doubt there are some very good managing agents!  But we have seen enough bad ones to know that we can't sensibly offer either PRS membership or insurance where residents are represented by managing agents.

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Q3.16 Does PRS carry out, or arrange for, grass-cutting, resurfacing, or other physical work?

No, we don't. Sorry.

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FAQs on contacts

Q4.1 Where is PRS's "one contact only" rule?

You'll find it in our Terms and Conditions.  It applies to all our members and insurance clients.

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Q4.2 What does it mean?

Simply that we can't accept communications from (or send them to) anyone other than the agreed contact. We have found, over the course of more than ten years, and thousands of transactions, that this is an important piece of "housekeeping" both for us and for our members and insurance clients. 

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Q4.3 But why is it necessary?

Because trying to communicate separately with a number of different contacts for a given association or company would:

  • Make our services prohibitively expensive, because the administrative work involved would be greatly increased
  • Cause muddles, and waste everyone's time
  • Make it difficult for us to comply with the many rules and regulations to which we are subject; and
  • Frustrate efforts by associations and companies to act collectively.

For all these reasons, we have to stand firm and say that "one contact only" really does mean one contact only.

If it seems unhelpful, please remember that it is in your interests as well as ours!

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Q4.4 What happens when you receive emails, letters or messages from someone other than the agreed contact?

They are deleted or destroyed, unread, immediately on receipt.  We don't discuss or comment on them.  

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Q4.5 How can I find out who our contact is?

Please ask your committee members/directors.

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Q4.6 What if I have a query about PRS membership or insurance?

Please speak to your agreed contact about it.  If they decide to raise it with us, on behalf of your association/company, we will of course do all we can to help.

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Q4.7 What about changes of contact?

We have devised a simple procedure, to make sure that things go smoothly.  

The existing contact and the proposed new contact should meet should, and together fill in the necessary brief form.  There should be one in the PRS binder we provide;  if not, the form can be downloaded from our Changes of contact page.

The procedure rarely causes problems.  But please remember that it is NOT just a technicality:  it's designed to check that all is in order.  If it isn't in order, you must tell us, so we can decide whether to agree to a change.  Please see also FAQs 4.8 to 4.10 below.

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Q4.8 Our contact is seriously ill, or has died. What should we do?

We recognise that the usual procedure can't apply in these circumstances.

If another resident is willing to take over as contact they should get in touch with us direct, to confirm that they accept our terms and conditions.  We can then update our records.  

 

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Q4.9 Our contact is now refusing to act for us. The've ignored the change-of-contact procedure. What can we do?

This is not common; but it does, regrettably, happen.  

We recognise that it leaves other residents in a very difficult position — in particular because without a contact they cannot renew their association's PRS insurance, or make a claim under the policy.  

It also leaves us in a difficult position.  An insurance contract is a serious and sensitive matter.  If your contact did not feel able to sign the change-of-contact form, so that someone else could take over, they should have told us the reason.  

In these circumstances, you should do all you can to speak to your contact and find out what has gone wrong.  When you have done so, please get in touch with us and we will do our best to help. 

 

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