Landlocked

What Is Landlocked?

Landlocked in the context of real estate refers to a piece of property that is inaccessible via public thoroughfare, except through an adjacent lot. A vacant lot that is located behind a strip mall and can only be reached by walking through the mall qualifies as this type of lot. Landlocked property is locked up, meaning it's surrounded by other property. 

Key Takeaways

  • Landlocked in the context of real estate refers to a piece of property that is inaccessible via public thoroughfare, except through an adjacent lot.
  • Landlocked property is locked up, meaning it's surrounded by other property, and only accessible through the property that surrounds it.
  • Landlocked parcels are typically the result of subdivisions or the division of a larger parcel of land into smaller parcels, which are sold off individually.
  • Owners of a landlocked property can obtain an easement, which grants the right to cross over neighboring land to access the public road.

Understanding Landlocked

Landlocked parcels are typically the result of subdivisions or the division of a larger parcel of land into smaller parcels, which are sold off individually. Ideally, the smaller parcels would each have access to a public right-of-way, but sometimes that’s not possible.

For example, a seller might wish to subdivide a large square parcel with a landscape feature in the center, such as a mountain, that’s unsuitable for development. Rather than carving out a gerrymandered parcel that gives road access to the mountain, it might be left landlocked.

Landlocked real estate properties can occur when land that's been in a family for many years is divided up between family members. Eventually, when properties are sold, there becomes a need for the properties to be separately owned. Accessing the landlocked property might not have been an issue when the surrounding properties were owned by the same family; however, once the ownership changes for some of the properties, access to the landlocked real estate can become an issue.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Landlocked Real Estate

Landlocked property typically has a lower value than the surrounding properties, due to its inaccessibility; however, that doesn't mean the landlocked real estate is worth nothing. In addition, because it has a lower value, it may be a better value in expensive neighborhoods for prospective buyers. This may allow these buyers access to a community that they would otherwise be priced out of.

Obtaining a loan or mortgage for a landlocked property, however, can be difficult since banks may not finance a landlocked property. The lack of access to the property for public services, such as medical and fire personnel, can make banks and prospective buyers pass on dealing with a landlocked property.

Easement

Access to a landlocked property or parcel can be challenging for the owner; however, state and federal laws protect the right of property owners to “productive use” of their land, which means, in general, the right to gain access to a public road.

An easement, which grants the right to cross over neighboring land, is used to provide such access. There are various types of easements, some easier to acquire than others. But, savvy buyers who understand the rules can find good investments in landlocked property.

The stress-free way to get an easement is through a friendly negotiation with a neighboring landowner. They might be tempted to grant a verbal promise, which allows a landlocked owner to cross their land, but buyers are advised to get the promise in writing.

A written easement created by a real estate lawyer, and registered with the local deed office provides security for the landlocked property owner. With a verbal arrangement, the neighbor could change their mind, or sell their land to a less hospitable owner.

Finally, the neighbor's word won’t carry much weight when the landlocked parcel goes up for sale again. A permanent easement in writing avoids all of these potential problems.

Easement by Necessity

If a neighbor balks at signing a friendly easement or asks for unreasonable compensation, it may be necessary to obtain an easement by necessity. An easement by necessity is a court order granting the landowner legally entitled access to their property.

The catch is that the landlocked owner must prove through a deed and title search that both the landlocked property and the neighboring property were at one time owned by the same person. The court is essentially ruling that when the property was subdivided, the owner neglected to provide the necessary road access.

It’s important to note that filing for an easement by necessity will entail legal costs. Also, it may leave the landlocked owner with an angry neighbor who can appeal the ruling. There are exceptions to an easement by necessity, such as land patents granted by the federal government, even those dating back hundreds of years. To avoid being embroiled in legal battles over a landlocked property, buyers should consult an experienced real estate attorney.

Can You Deny Access to Landlocked Property?

No, you cannot deny access to landlocked property. There are federal and state laws in place that allow access to landlocked property even though direct access is not possible. One of the best ways to allow access to landlocked property is through an easement or easement by necessity.

Why Should I Invest in a Landlocked Property?

There are many reasons why a person would want to invest in a landlocked property. Landlocked properties are lower in value so they might be an entry point into an otherwise expensive neighborhood that would be out of the person's budget. If a landlocked property is next to a business or area of business that is likely to expand in the future, then holding onto a landlocked property and selling it in the future for a higher price when the business area expands is also another reason to purchase such property.

What Is Severance of Unity?

"Severance of unity" is one of the items that the owner of a landlocked property must prove when trying to obtain an easement by necessity. It proves that the initial owner of the land subdivided the property and part of the division was transferred to the claimant.