A recent House of Lords case has confirmed how critical it is to make sure that nothing is left to chance when purchasing a property. It confirmed the 2006 decision of the Court of Appeal that when a piece of land is landlocked (i.e. has no right of access over adjoining land so cannot be lawfully accessed by its owner), there is no automatic right to have a right of way ‘of necessity’ over adjoining land.
The case involved land purchased from a landowner who had originally retained it when he sold adjoining land to the council. The landowner had failed to negotiate any right of access across the land sold, leaving the retained land landlocked. Since at the time of the original sale there had been no common intention that there should be a right of access over the land sold, the Lords declined to grant a right of way.
This case illustrates how important it is to be careful when dealing with transactions in land. The absence of the right to access the land means that to access his land, the landowner will need to negotiate from a position of considerable weakness with one of the adjoining landowners to secure a right of way.