Private Streets: Tricks or Treats?


roadwayI recently read an article by Chris Birk of Veterans United that was titled by “The Potential Pitfalls of Purchasing on a Private Road.”    As a land use attorney in Southern Maryland who owns a home on a private street I could not help but think “But that makes my street sound scary.”  I assure you that my street is not scary.  (Well except for that one of the people that used to live in my house died, and perhaps his ghost still haunts the place…but that is the subject for another post, Halloween is coming up). 

When you get past the headline you realize that the “pitfalls” deal with possible complications for getting a VA loan.  The article does a great job laying out the extra steps involved in getting a VA Loan when a private road agreement is involved.  While any lender may need to take a closer look at a property that is subject to a private road agreement, there are pluses that make these extra steps involved.  On my street at least once during the week, we have a “Homeowners Association” meeting.  And there are certain rules:

  1. You are responsible for your own transportation.  Preferred methods include riding mowers, four-wheelers, or mules…and in my case (mother of a toddler), a stroller or Power-Wheels.
  2. You are responsible for your own beverage.  Acceptable methods include beer (must be in a can), bottled water, or juice box.
  3. You can talk about anything.  Usual topics of conversation: the economy, physical ailments (including but not limited to kidney stones and diaper rashes), community events (such as the local haunted house or craft show), and what is being harvested in someone’s backyard garden.
  4. Meeting is adjourned when you can’t see each other’s faces (because it’s dark) or when someone gets called to dinner.

So while buying a house on a private street may add some extra steps to a VA loan, don’t think of it as something that should be avoided.  I have enjoyed living on a private street and would not trade it for anything in the world.  But, if you or someone you know is worried about purchasing a house on a private street…talk to me about it.  I can help!

Here are some tips of what to do if you are considering buying a property that is located on a private road to make sure your purchase will not come back to haunt you.

  1. Check the recorded plats in your local land records office.  If the property is part of a small subdivision (five to seven lots), chances are, the original developer/builder has already prepared a “Private Road Agreement” and all owners (of the five to seven lots) are part owners and are required to maintain the roadway.
  2. Check the land records for the “Private Road Agreement” or “Common Access Easement.”  Again, if the property is part of a small subdivision, this is the document that would resolve any legal issues as to who owns and/or is required to maintain the roadway.
  3. Check your local tax assessor’s office.  It is possible that the roadway (regardless of size) was assigned its own property tax identification number.

If, after you have done items 1-3, and you haven’t gotten anywhere (no pun intended), call me, I can help!  I can review the chains-of-title (history of the deeds) to your property and the other lots in the subdivision to see whether you’ve missed something.  And if the correct document really does not exist, I can prepare one and help you get it signed and recorded so that the issue doesn’t come up again…at least for you!

Need a real estate lawyer? Please contact us for a consultation today if you need a Maryland real estate lawyer for your real estate settlement or real estate legal case.

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