What Makes a Road Private?

Nowadays, roads are an important mode of transportation. In order to avoid accidents, proper road maintenance is critical at all costs. Private roads, just like public roads, have benefits and drawbacks and this will be unraveled in the article.
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Roads have been an important factor in developing transportation, trade, and commerce. It has been possible only because of roads that people can travel from one place to another. But do you know there are two types of roads, private and public? No? Well, today you will get thorough information about private roads vs public roads, and what makes a road private. What are the rights of private road owners? What are the laws on private roads? So, let’s begin and find out.

1. What is a Public Road?

JAN23 What Makes a Road Private
By Spenser Sembrat from Unsplash+

According to the definition by the Organization of Economic Corporation and Development (OECD), a road is a line of communication that uses a stabilized base, unlike rails and airways. There are different types of roads, but avenues, tollways, parkways, highways, thoroughfares, interstates, controlled-access highways, and local roads are examples of roads that you use every day. Public roads are owned by the government to be used by the public. Check out Highway Toll System.

2. What Makes a Road Private?

A person, group of persons or organizations can own and control the road which is why the such road is known as private roads. These roads are particularly on the private property of the person. Apart from it, what makes a road private? Well, a private road can also be built on the public road and government agencies use them under agreements. Usually, private roads are not accessible to the public.

3. What are the Rights of Private Road Owners?

A private road owner has the right to get control of the road registered under his or her name and prohibit any public access from the road. Also, at the will of the owner of the private road, the rights of the private road can be terminated. The owner is responsible for handling expenses related to trash collection, maintenance of the road, etc. 

4. What are the Rights of Multiple Private Road Owners?

In some regions of the United States, private roads can be owned by a group of people. This type of ownership comes with some more rights for the owners. Requests can be made for traffic enforcement and extension of speed limits on private roads.

5. What are the Laws on Private Roads?

The maintenance of old roads and construction of new roads is the responsibility of the Road owner/owners. Other laws related to private roads that explain what makes a road private are as follows: 

  • The government will not handle any maintenance and no public funds will be used on private roads
  • Anyone who wishes to do construction on private roads has to seek permission from the municipality and the owner.

6. How to Know if the Road is Privately Owned?

If you are purchasing a house in a new location, particularly in the countryside, it is possible to come across several houses where that have privately owned roads. It is better to check the details with the local authorities before purchasing the property. Nothing to worry about because the responsibilities of maintaining the private roads are usually shared with fellow landowners in the area. (Also read 8 Facts about Cracks in Sidewalk)

7. How to Get the Permit to Build on a Private Road?

To get the permit for construction on a private road, you need to meet the municipality board. If their official map shows that the road you asked for is registered as a private road, you will have to seek a permission letter from the owner of the road. In such a case, the municipality is not responsible for the maintenance of the road, and they are not liable for any personal injury as well. If it is not registered under the planning board then the permit can be issued by the municipality after getting permission from the governing body. 

8. What is Covered Under Private Road Maintenance Agreement?

Another factor included in what makes a road private is given in this point. The agreement is between people sharing the ownership of the road, landowners, and people of the community or society benefitting from the private road to address the payment and maintenance issues. The details that need to be addressed in the private road maintenance agreement are as follows: 

  • Name, address, and details of the people bound with the agreement
  • Type of maintenance work that needs to be done
  • The person responsible for making the decision
  • Sum of money to be contributed by each person mentioned in the agreement
  • Consequences in case of non-payment
  • Pedestrian and vehicle access
  • Provisions on how disputes will be handled
  • Parking

9. Is there any Reduction in Council Tax for Private Road Owners?

Council tax is used to maintain the streets and to help manage the expenses of the public services provided. If you are living in a building built on a private street, that does not make you an exception in paying the tax, the council will not reduce the council tax for any private road owners. (See What are the 7 Types of Transportation?)

10. Can Authorities Adopt a Private Road?

You must be wondering if it is possible to shift the ownership of the private road to shift to the relevant authorities or not. Well yes. This is only possible if the road fulfills certain criteria of standards to be called and used as a public road. The criteria and requirements vary from authority to authority.

11. What are Private Roads Vs Public Roads?

Here is the complete list of conditions about what makes a road private and public.

Private Roads Public Roads
Roads on private property that does not offer public services are private roads. Where the public has full access and can use the road for their convenience is the public road.
Private roads are situated in gated communities, subdivisions, or rural areas Public roads are present in all parts of the country where the public can drive and use them for transportation
The burden of maintaining private roads falls on the owners. Maintenance of public roads is in the hands of the government.
Owners are not allowed to charge fees from others for accessing private roads. People have to pay taxes and tolls for using highways, toll roads, etc.
Using or entering private roads is considered trespassing and the person can be charged for doing so. Public roads are completely accessible to the general public.
Traffic rules are not enforced on private roads. The public has to strictly follow traffic rules on public roads.
Owners can put up boundaries and gates to restrict entry on private roads. There are no such gates or boundaries on public roads.
Private owners have the right to control the traffic on private roads. Public roads are noisy and jam-packed with traffic.
Private road owners have more control over the surrounding areas, which can be considered an important factor in what makes a road private. You cannot control the surrounding areas of the public road.
The community has a sense of responsibility towards privately owned roads, and they tend to maintain and manage them. Public roads are least cared for by people, and they consider it the responsibility of the government to care for and manage the road.

12. What are the Disadvantages of Owning a Private Road?

Having control over the road can give you a sense of authority and power but with great power comes greater responsibilities. Having a privately owned road comes with certain disadvantages too, that need to be considered if you plan to have one.

  • The responsibility of maintaining the road is on the owners. But if the owners neglect it and fail to pay for maintenance, it can be a point of tension.
  • An improperly maintained street is dangerous and can lead to accidents and create other safety issues.
  • If someone is injured on a private road, the owners will have to settle their insurance claim.

So, today you learned about what makes a road private. Several differences made it clear about private roads vs public roads, right? What are the rights of private road owners? Well, for this it becomes their property in the same sense as their house. What are the laws on private roads? Did you miss reading about it? (Also read What is Town Planning?)

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