The Ultimate Guide to Shared Driveways
If during your home shopping, you come across a property with a shared driveway, there is a good chance you will have some questions before you decide to purchase.
The automatic question from most buyers is, “how do shared driveways work”?
The other question I often hear as a real estate agent is whether having a shared driveway will make it more difficult for my home to sell sometime down the road.
Let’s take a look in-depth at both of these issues.
For most home buyers, owning a home is an idea of independence, and the thought of sharing the access point for their new home can be a little disconcerting. But keep in mind that there are plenty of homes out there that do have shared driveways, particularly in rural settings.
Your job as the buyer is to determine if the arrangements around the shared driveway are something you can live with.
Over the years, I have sold many homes that were serviced by a shared drive. More often than not, it is not the end of the world to be involved in such a situation.
There are, however some things you should research before jumping in with a full head of steam.
One other thing I will mention is you may also hear the term “common driveway,” which means the same thing as a shared driveway.
What is a Shared Driveway?
When two or more parties share the same driveway it is considered a shared or common driveway. It is always best to have a shared driveway agreement that details the legal rights of each of the parties to use the driveway.
When there are no shared driveway agreements in place it can increase the chances of a legal dispute.
Things To Consider About A Shared Driveway
There are several positives and negatives to consider when you are looking at a property with a shared driveway:
Pros of Shared Driveways
On the positive side, you can generally expect the costs of maintenance and repair to be shared between you and the other owners.
If you live in an area where snow is an issue, you and the other people sharing the driveway may also share in the cost of snow removal.
And if something does go disastrously wrong, like the driveway washes out after flooding or heavy rain, you have other parties that can assist you in getting the driveway repaired.
Cons of Shared Driveways
On the negative side, there can be some frustrations that come along with sharing a driveway. There may be some rules that you do not agree with concerning the driveway.
For instance, you may not be able to repair your vehicle along the driveway, or you may have parking restrictions.
If you have a limited amount of parking on your property and you want to have guests over, you may be limited in how you can use the driveway to offer your guests parking.
The most significant possible negative is that – because you are sharing the driveway with other people – you may become involved in a disagreement.
Neighbors, being human, can sometimes get into arguments. It is a part of life, but these arguments can be made much more difficult because you are sharing something necessary for both you and your neighbor’s comfort and convenience.
The argument may not even be about the driveway, but the disagreement can spill over into how you both use and share the primary access to your homes.
Dealing with bad neighbors is never pleasant, especially down the road when it comes time to sell your home.
Shared Driveway Laws
You would expect that there should be some driveway laws that need to be followed but that is not always the case.
When determining what legal rights are in place, it is best to refer to the facts. Each party should review their property owner’s title insurance policy from when the property was purchased. If a survey of the property was obtained, it should also be reviewed.
Title insurance agreements can be valuable in determining each party’s legal rights.
Is There a Shared Driveway Easement?
For example, there could be a separate driveway easement agreement, which describes the location and each party’s respective rights, to use, repair, and maintain the driveway.
A recorded deed or separate driveway easement gives the property easement holder the legal right to use and go onto another party’s property to access their property.
A property easement is a legal right to use or cross someone else’s land for a specific purpose, such as for utility lines or a driveway. Easements typically do not have any time limitation, and the holder of the easement has the right to continued use and access.
If a recorded easement does not exist, you might still have legal rights to prevent any interference by the other owner.
If each neighbor has an independent survey of their property, they should review it to determine if there are any discrepancies with the driveway in relation to the property lines.
When property surveys do not match the understood common shared driveway location, the correct survey needs to be determined. You may need to hire an independent surveyor to find out which is correct or draw a new plan the parties agree upon.
What Happens When No Shared Driveway Easement Exists?
When a driveway easement is not present and use of the driveway has been continuous by the prior and existing homeowners, or when it’s the only access point to the property, a court action may be needed to stop any interference from the neighbor.
Legal actions known as claims for adverse possession or prescriptive easement may be necessary when one party wishes to continue using a common driveway. To successfully make either claim, the party must be able to demonstrate years of usage and a necessity for continued use.
Rather than having shared driveway legal problems, it is best to try to work out an amicable solution for both parties.
Shared Driveways Should Have Rules and Agreements
The possible negative aspects of sharing a driveway can often be avoided or eliminated altogether by having a clear set of rules governing the shared property. It is relatively common for there to be written rules that are included in the legal documentation for the land where the driveway resides.
The rules may be included as a covenant on the deeds of individual homes that share the driveway, or they may be recorded as an easement on the subdivision plan. It is not that uncommon, by the way, for a portion of one driveway to have an easement or right of use over the portion of another.
The exact arrangement can vary, but in many cases, there are already rules in place that dictate how the driveway will be cared for and how disagreements will be handled should they arise.
Working as a Milford Mass Real Estate agent, I have sold several homes with common driveways over the years. Milford is one of a few towns in my service area where there are quite a few homes serviced by a common driveway.
Overall, these properties have been slightly more challenging sales, due to the fact that a portion of the buying public does not want to deal with them. Anytime your buyer pool shrinks, it presents additional challenges.
Your Job as a Home Buyer
As a potential buyer, it is the job of you and your real estate agent to verify what, if any, rules exist concerning the shared driveway. Once you know the current situation, you can determine if it is something you can live with.
The first thing to do is to ask your Realtor to gather documentation surrounding the use and rules of the shared driveway. The Realtor should dig up a survey map that shows the easement boundaries of the driveway, and that will show you who actually owns the driveway.
Even though the driveway is shared, it may be owned by one particular party, with rules in place to allow others to use it.
Your Realtor can also gather all the information about how the driveway is shared, where the responsibility for maintenance and repair lies, and any other pertinent information.
Equally important, your agent should be able to explain these rules to you in plain language, so you understand precisely what you are getting into.
If you do not have a real estate agent, you can conduct the research yourself. You will need to take a trip to the registry of deeds office or possibly explore the assessor’s maps for the county to see if you can find information related to the driveway.
This may take some time, especially if you are not experienced in it, but it can be done independently.
Consult With An Attorney For Real Estate About Shared Driveways
While you may be ambitious, your best bet will be to consult with a real estate attorney who can check the title for any shared driveway easements or shared driveway agreements.
It is one of the services that a real estate attorney performs for their clients.
One last thing you can do to get further information is to visit the neighbors that you will possibly be sharing the driveway with. You can ask about their experience with the driveway, how the users care for the driveway, and what happens if there are disputes.
Just remember that your neighbors, including the owner (if there is a single owner), can sell their properties at a later time. Although verbal agreements can be functional, it is still better to have written rules in place in case of a property transfer.
What If There Are No Rules, Agreements, or Easements?
Sometimes there are driveways that have no easements or agreements in place. When there are no agreements in place, the chances of shared driveway problems increase.
Do not be surprised if there are no rules surrounding the driveway, or if your neighbors have no idea about any written rules. If you discover that there are no legally binding rules, it would be best for you to request that the seller obtain a written agreement from all parties before buying the house.
Consider talking to a lawyer to ensure that the agreement is sound and protects you before making the purchase. You may also want to consider having language drafted that puts language into the deed that will survive the closing.
The same concerns you have could be experienced by the eventual buyer of the property when it comes time for you to sell. Having an agreement in place, gives everyone involved a little bit more peace of mind.
The unknown is something that could bother someone enough that they decide to pass on the property.
Check Resale Values With Shared Driveways
One of the more important considerations when purchasing a home with a shared driveway is to find out from a competent local real estate professional how it will impact the future resale of the house.
You need to find out if the fact there is a shared driveway will make the property more difficult to sell or if the home will not appreciate as quickly as the general market.
You need to ask your real estate agent a straightforward question like “will having a shared driveway make my property more difficult to sell in the future”?
What could be true for one area may not be the same for another. In some places, shared driveways are extremely common and present no issues regarding resale or appreciation potential.
Don’t, however, assume this is the case everywhere. It is really uncommon to have a shared drive. It is possible it could be considered a negative. Your real estate agent should be able to give you proper guidance.
You may even want to ask them for an example of another property that had a shared driveway. You can then evaluate whether this property was impacted financially due to the fact it’s shared.
How to Separate a Shared Driveway
Sometimes people want to know if it is possible to separate a shared driveway. It may be possible to separate a shared drive as long as each party has the ability to access their property.
You will need to check with the local zoning by-laws to see if it was possible. Often plans for a parcel of land will be approved in a certain fashion including having a shared driveway.
If there is an easement agreement in place you will need to consult with an attorney of splitting it up. You may also wish to split it up from a visual perspective which could be done with a fence or natural planters.
Shared driveway problems are much more prevalent when no driveway easements or agreements are in place. If you are considering buying a property under these circumstances, it would be in your best interests to get something done legally.
Doing so will make the process of selling the property much easier down the road. If you don’t understand the shared driveway laws, consult a real estate attorney who can help.
Hopefully, you have found these tips for buying a home with a shared driveway helpful.
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About the Author: The above Real Estate information on what to know about shared driveways was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 36+ Years.
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Shared Driveways: Laws, Easements, and Agreements Explained
What to know about shared driveways when buying a home. See information on laws, easements, and agreements when making purchases.
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