Property: `Private, keep out' may be good advice

Having your own road may appeal, but it may also be a big headache, says Fiona Brandhorst.

Living in a house on a private road has a certain snob appeal for some people, but it is not always an unmitigated blessing. In fact there are two types of private road. A private street is a privately maintained road to which the public has a right of way. If it falls into disrepair, the local authority has the right under the Highways Act to make it safe and charge residents for the work. And then there's a private road with no public right of way, that must be gated to through traffic once a year to keep its private status.

Private roads are "perceived to have a better cachet," says Nick Thomas, associate director of Hamptons International in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire. The nearby Loudwater Private Estate has a number of entries and exits, all gated except the main one. Only the residents have keys. "Private estates tend to be in good areas and you can attribute a premium to a house in a private road setting," says Mr Thomas.

Malcolm Daniel agrees. He lives on the Firs Estate, four private roads of late Twenties properties designated as a conservation area in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire. "It's definitely contributed to the value of our properties," says Mr Daniel. The recent addition of white gate posts with "private" signs on the three entrances to the estate and road humps, paid for by the residents, have also made their mark.

Four years ago when the roads on the estate had really begun to deteriorate, Mr Daniel took over as vice chairman and treasurer of the Firs Estate Residents Association. The crunch came when its funds were too low to pay the annual insurance premium providing cover for up to pounds 500,000 if someone claims for an injury caused by the condition of the road (cover is provided by the local authority on public roads).

Now, almost all of the residents from the 85 houses pay an annual subscription of pounds 60 a year and a five-year repair plan is in place. It is assumed that each resident owns half of the road in front of their property. "We can't force people to pay," says Mr Daniel, "but as the profile of residents has become much younger they are able to afford it and actually expect to pay something towards the upkeep."

Last year, the committee appointed a contractor to resurface two of the roads. "It was all very new to us," says Mr Daniel, whose day job is as a film editor with the BBC. "We asked a road surveyor, recommended by the local council, to draw us a map of the areas he considered would need immediate attention. If anyone complains that a pothole outside their house isn't being attended to, at least we can show them the surveyor's report."

Would it not be easier to ask the local authority to take over the estate, since it is a through route? "We looked into it," says Mr Daniel, "but they declined. They wanted to make proper footpaths and kerb edging and we don't want all that."

The Land Registry office in London underlines the importance of asking a solicitor to look very carefully at a property's title deeds to ensure that potential purchasers are happy with rights of access and maintenance obligations. Some private roads may have covenants that restrict redevelopment.

The Firs Estate association is there to maintain the roads, not, Mr Daniel stresses, to sort out neighbourly problems. But for Andre Montaut, director of Almond Construction, sorting out a long-running dispute with a neighbour was vital when he was negotiating to buy a piece of land for redevelopment.

The only access was via its own private unsurfaced road. "The chap living next door to the proposed site had had a dispute with the owner over boundaries," says Mr Montaut. Sensing there was money to be made, the neighbour claimed that part of the road and the hedge running alongside it was his property. To avoid a lengthy and costly court battle, for which Almond Construction believed there were no grounds, they suggested the planting of six semi- mature trees as a screen between the development of three detached houses and the disgruntled neighbour. Eventually, he dropped his claim to the land.

"At least the owners of the new properties won't have any problems over boundaries now," adds Mr Montaut. "And their responsibilities for the private road have been clearly set out within the deeds of their property and were accepted by each of their solicitors." When the site is completed, Almond Construction will hand over the road to its residents.

Russell Copp now knows how important it is to look closely at the deeds when buying a house on a private road. When he bought one of 11 former farmworkers' cottages in Thurrock, Essex, he was pleased with the novelty of living on a private road, even though it was more like a "dirt track". "I thought we'd eventually get together with some of the neighbours and put down chippings to upgrade it," he says.

However, the road was still owned by the builder who had converted the cottages and he had other ideas. Last year, he asked each of the residents for pounds 200 to surface the road. "We had no say in who he chose to do the work," remonstrates Mr Copp. "They were a bunch of cowboys and a year on, the surface is breaking up." The contractor also covered up the mains stop-cock outside Mr Copp's cottage with tarmac.

Unsurprisingly, he has refused to pay his share. "I'd advise anyone considering buying in a private road to find out exactly what responsibilities you have and to work together with your neighbours. If you're not sure, always get legal advice."

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Sport
Robbie Savage will not face a driving ban
football'Mr Marmite' faced the possibility of a 28-day ban
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in ‘I Am Michael’
filmJustin Kelly's latest film tells the story of a man who 'healed' his homosexuality and turned to God
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower