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Property Law
Deeds and Ownership
Real Estate Buying and Selling

If you buy land that is landlocked how can you get a right of way if the other land owners around your land refuse to allow access?


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August 22, 2014 2:17PM

They cannot do that. There is an implied easement from the original parcel from which your land was created or carved out. You should be able to go to the Clerk of Courts and find the original parcel--they are usually very helpful. Most property records in NC are online for the larger counties like Wake, etc. You may have to go to court, but an attorney's letter can be just as effective.


Landlocked land is surrounded by land of others on all sides. If you buy land that is already landlocked you may have bought a problem. Landlocked land is an extremely complicated legal issue and the devil is in the details.

First and foremost is the question of when did the land become landlocked. Many landlocked parcels are ancient eighteenth and nineteenth century woodlots or sprout land that was originally separated from the main homestead and farm. The original owners acquired those tracts, sometimes before any roads were established, to furnish wood for building, heating and cooking purposes.

Access was not a concern at the time. They used cart paths to access the property and no one complained about another farmer crossing along the cart paths to access their wood lots (or distant fields in some cases). Landlocking also occurred when a farmer would carve out a small parcel for his child to build a house nearby and no one thought to add a right of access to the deed description. That small tract would then get passed down without legal access.

As the original owners died and their estates were passed down through inheritance those old landlocked parcels were sometimes forgotten. They came forward with no access. For those types of landlocked parcels the modern abutters do not have to grant a present owner access over their land. It would be unfair to impose that obligation automatically on land owners.

There are a few remedies the landlocked owner can explore:

  • Purchase access from an abutter.
  • Sell the land to an abutter.
  • Hire a good attorney who specializes in land issues who can build a case for an easement by necessity or perform extensive title research to try to find some ancient right of access. This type of lawsuit is expensive.

In more modern times states have codified protection for buyers whereby an owner of a larger tract cannot sell a parcel that doesn't have access. However, those laws apply to conveyances where the seller owns the surrounding land and has the ability to grant a ROW.

You must consult with an attorney who can review your situation and explain your options.