The county moved the road leaving my property landlocked

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The county moved the road leaving my property landlocked

I inherited my grandparents farm in Harnett Co. NC.
The deed states the property line runs down the center
of the county road. At some point after my
grandparents bought the property 1940’s, the county
paved the road and moved it a few feet into the
neighbors land thereby leaving my grandparents
landlocked. My grandparents kept using the original
driveway into the property and I am still using it. My
question is by what right did the county damage my
grandparents property without giving an easement or
compensation, and what are my options to gain legal
easement that does not rely on permission from the
neighbor.

Asked on June 10, 2018 under Real Estate Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

The county had a right to move its road regardless of the impact on the property: the county has *no* obligations to maintain the property values of private citizens. It does not site roads in the first place to increase certain persons' property values, and similarly, it can move roads even if doing so harms someone's value. It's not just the county that can do this, of course: a neighbor can put up a large home or other structure on his land which blocks your property's view, harming your value, and would owe you nothing for doing this. People--or the government--do not owe you compensation when they do things they legally may do.
If you can't work matters out with your neighbor and your property is landlocked, you can file a court case against him in county court (typically in what is called the "chancery" part or division) to get an "easement by prescription"--a court ordered easement to allow you access to a public road. You can only do this if there is no other option: i.e. if you could create a road through some other part of your property to another public road, even if it would be expensive and inconvenient, you have to do that as a first recourse. Only if there is no other way to access a public road but through your neighbor's land would a court order an easement. This type of lawsuit can be contentious and expensive: you are strongly encouraged to try to work matters out with the neighbor.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

The county had a right to move its road regardless of the impact on the property: the county has *no* obligations to maintain the property values of private citizens. It does not site roads in the first place to increase certain persons' property values, and similarly, it can move roads even if doing so harms someone's value. It's not just the county that can do this, of course: a neighbor can put up a large home or other structure on his land which blocks your property's view, harming your value, and would owe you nothing for doing this. People--or the government--do not owe you compensation when they do things they legally may do.
If you can't work matters out with your neighbor and your property is landlocked, you can file a court case against him in county court (typically in what is called the "chancery" part or division) to get an "easement by prescription"--a court ordered easement to allow you access to a public road. You can only do this if there is no other option: i.e. if you could create a road through some other part of your property to another public road, even if it would be expensive and inconvenient, you have to do that as a first recourse. Only if there is no other way to access a public road but through your neighbor's land would a court order an easement. This type of lawsuit can be contentious and expensive: you are strongly encouraged to try to work matters out with the neighbor.


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