Buying Landlocked Property? 13 Things (2024) You Must Know

The concept of landlocked property is often confusing to first-time landowners.

How can there be land that you can’t legally access?

It sounds strange, but there are actually many landlocked properties throughout the US.

So what should you do if you find or buy one?

Fortunately, there are a number of methods devised for obtaining the legal right to access a landlocked property.

In this blog, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know if you’re considering investing in a piece of property that doesn’t have its own access.

But be careful – while it may sound like a non-issue – inflexible and unrelenting neighbors can always create issues for you in the process.

Sometimes it’s better to walk away from a property altogether than risk getting stuck with it because it won’t resell.

Here’s what you should know about landlocked property.

1. Definition of landlocked property

Landlocked property is a piece of land that is inaccessible via public thoroughfare.

This means that you, as the landowner, have no other option but to go through another person’s property in order to reach your own.

This is not only inconvenient but can cause a variety of legal issues.

Landlocked parcels typically occur after a property is subdivided, or when a plot of land has been divided into lots and sold off individually.

While each smaller parcel should (in theory) have its own public right-of-way, this doesn’t always happen.

While landlocked property is not inherently worthless, it’s probably not the property you want as a rookie investor.

It’s typically worth less than all of the other surrounding properties.

For this reason, it’s important to know your options when buying the property.

Otherwise, you may get stuck with the property long-term, and you may not be able to do much with it.

2. Definition of an easement

An easement (also known as an easement agreement) is a concept in real estate that defines a scenario where one party can use the property of another party for a specific purpose.

Often, land access is granted in exchange for a fee, so you may need to provide compensation to any party you’re hoping to obtain an easement from.

Easements are most commonly purchased by public utility companies when they want to run pipes beneath private property or put telephone poles on someone’s land.

Another common type of easement is an access easement, which occurs when someone must use another person’s property in order to gain access to their own.

Easements are high-level agreements between an owner of a property and another party – this could be a person or an organization.

A typical easement will outline a form of compensation by the petitioner to the owner for a specific purpose.

These agreements can sometimes be transferred with the sale of the property, so it’s always important to know (as a buyer) if there are existing easements in place or if you would need to create your own.

3. You will want to know your odds of obtaining an easement before buying

Before you consider purchasing a property that requires an easement, it’s best to discuss the odds of obtaining one with a local real-estate lawyer whom you trust.

While you may not know your likelihood of success, they probably will.

If their recommendation is to stop pursuing a property or that you may lose in court, then it’s best to heed their advice.

Losing an easement case means you’ve not only spent money on legal costs, but the land will still be landlocked and difficult to sell.

If the odds of getting an easement are not great, it’s probably best not to get involved with the landlocked property in question.

Here are the different scenarios that you may be faced with when you’re looking to obtain legal access to a landlocked property.

bulletThe adjacent landowner is not willing to accommodate you.

Thus, you must file a lawsuit in order to try and obtain the easement.

This is the scenario (as described above) where you’d want your odds for an easement to be almost certain before moving forward.

bulletAnother scenario would be getting your real estate lawyer to negotiate with the adjacent landowner to settle without a lawsuit.

You will still have to pay for lawyer’s fees, but it will be less expensive than a lawsuit.

bulletThe easiest route is to simply ask the adjacent landowner about the easement.

If they are accommodating, then you can take care of filing all of the easement documents with the county on your own.

This is nice, but it isn’t always feasible in practice.

And it’s still a good idea to have a legal professional help with some of the more difficult aspects of this process.

4. The governing document will state who is responsible for maintaining an easement

So, if you’re just using their land, you don’t have to maintain it, right?

Well…not necessarily.

Whatever governing documents you have designating your easement agreement will discuss this portion.

However, it is most common for the homeowner to be responsible for maintaining all of their property, including any portions that others may use as a part of an easement.

5. Landlocked property can be an investment opportunity 

Landlocked property is an investment opportunity if you play your cards correctly.

For example, some people buy landlocked property, get an easement, and make a profit off of merchantable timber or some other feature of the property.

This ends up being more than enough to cover the acquisition costs, legal fees, etc.

Additionally, since the land now has an easement agreement, it’s a lot more appealing.

However, the process of obtaining legal access to landlocked property requires several steps, and it can be very difficult to get this process right.

If a property doesn’t already have an easement agreement, and it isn’t certain, then it’s not smart to purchase immediately.

Careful due diligence of landlocked property and its future potential includes the potential to resell when the time is right.

Ultimately, whether a property makes sense as an investment also depends on the price.

Below is a hypothetical case study for you to consider.

6. How do you value landlocked property?

When valuing landlocked property, consider access rights, easements in place, and the cost of obtaining legal access.

The property’s potential for development, resource availability, and surrounding land values are also vital.

Does it have high quality timber?

Does it have conservation or scenic value?

What is the quality of the soil? Could it be used for farming once an easement is in place?

Engage a professional appraiser familiar with local landlocked property challenges to ensure a fair and accurate valuation.

Any appraisal should reflect both the land’s current limitations and potential future value once proper access rights are secured.

7. Local counsel is essential to this process

An easement is a legal document, which is why it can be helpful to have legal counsel throughout the process, especially in a new area.

While you may not understand local or state laws that impact the decision-making process or your likelihood of success, a local lawyer can help to provide the insight you lack.

Why may people choose not to have a lawyer?

The most common is probably money.

If you’re operating on a budget, it can be easy to try to cut corners anywhere you can.

However, hiring local counsel can help you save elsewhere.

You definitely don’t want to invest in a property you can’t sell!

You’ll be better off knowing exactly what your odds are and how you should proceed forward.

Another common reason people may opt not to hire a lawyer is because their adjacent neighbor is agreeable.

In this case, it may not be an issue.

You just want to make sure everything is done by the book and filed correctly, so there are no issues down the road.

8. Express easements can be the easiest way to gain access to landlocked property

If you’re looking for the quickest and easiest way to gain access to property, then you’ll want to go the express easement route.

Here’s the process:

bulletObtain an easement in writing. Specifically, identify the property and details of the allowed easement use

bulletGet it signed by the grantor

bulletFile it in the county deeds records

Some neighboring landowners may not even require compensation when granting this type of easement.

Others may still expect some sort of fee.

However, express easements may not be possible if the neighboring landowner isn’t agreeable or won’t sign a document out of court.

In this case, the process will be much longer (see point 3).

9. Some states have laws allowing an “easement by necessity”

You’ll need to do research depending on where you’re planning to buy landlocked property.

For instance, Texas law recognizes “easement by necessity.”

An easement by necessity can be created when it’s necessary to cross another landowner’s private property in order to access yours.

However, the landlocked owner must PROVE all of the following

bulletThe same individual must have (at one time) owned the landlocked property and the tract across which access is sought (unity of ownership of the alleged dominant and servient estates prior to severance)

bulletAccess is a necessity – not a convenience

bulletNecessity existed at the time that these two estates were severed

If the landlocked property owner can prove the above three statements, they may be able to seek an “easement by necessity” declaration with the court.

This can then be filed in the county deed records.

All three statements must be present in order for this agreement to be granted.

10. Another alternative is an implied easement

An implied easement is very similar to an easement by necessity.

It comes into play when a parcel is subdivided in a way that creates a landlocked property, which is then sold.

As with an easement by necessity, the new landlocked property owner must prove the following:

bulletThe same individual must have (at one time) owned the landlocked property and the tract across which access is sought

bulletAccess is a necessity – not a convenience

The major difference is that, under an implied easement, the accessway in question must also have existed prior to the division of the property.

So, for example, a farmer subdivides his 40-acre farm into two lots, a 35-acre parcel and a 5-acre parcel.

The 5-acre parcel has a barn on it which was accessed solely by a private dirt road that runs across the 35-acre tract.

The farmer had also been using this dirt road for many years prior to subdividing the lot.

In this case, the new owner of the 5-acre parcel may be able to claim an implied easement if he or she can prove the above three statements.

11. Evaluate if a prescriptive easement is an option for you

Prescriptive easements occur when the landlocked property owner obtains an easement through adverse possession by claiming that they have used the easement for a certain length of time.

This use must be open, notorious, continuous, exclusive, and adverse.

If these terms don’t mean much to you, here’s what you must prove about your use of the accessway:

bulletOpen and Notorious: it must have been obvious to the owner of the adjacent property that you were using their land to access your property.

bulletExclusive and Continuous: the use of the adjacent property must have been continuous and exclusive (i.e. used by you or the previous property owner and not someone else) for a set period of time (usually 10 years, although this varies state by state).

bulletAdverse: the landlocked property owner (or previous owners) must claim and prove that they didn’t have permission to use the accessway.

If these elements can be proven, then the landlocked property owner may be able to obtain a legal prescriptive easement to file in deed records.

Please note that there are variations between states in how prescriptive easements work, so you should consult with local legal counsel.

12. Determine if there could be an easement by estoppel

Were you told that an easement exists when you first bought a property?

This sometimes occurs between landlocked property owners and neighbors only to cause issues later on.

For example, if you purchase a property under the assumption that an easement exists because you meet the adjacent neighbor who tells you that you’re welcome to use their private land to access your property, then you may be caught off guard when that permission is later revoked.

Does that mean you can’t access your property at all now?

In this case, you could create an easement by estoppel by filing a court action, proving the following elements, and getting an order from a judge.

While it may not be preferable, it can certainly work.

Adjacent neighbor must show:

bulletConduct that amounts to false representation or concealment of material facts OR conduct that conveys the impression that the facts are inconsistent with those that the party subsequently asserts

bulletIntention, expectation or reasonable foreseeability that the other party will act as a result of that conduct

bulletKnowledge of the true facts

Landlocked property owner must show:

bulletLack of knowledge and of the means of knowledge of the truth as to the facts in question

bulletReliance upon the conduct of the party estopped

bulletAction based thereon of such character that their position has changed prejudicially

13. Check the local laws to see how you may be able to obtain access to a public road 

In Texas, a statute permits a landlocked property owner to seek a public road from the commissioners’ court.

To do this, the owner of the landlocked property must file a sworn application with the commissioners’ court and provide notice to each property owner who would be impacted by the easement.

A hearing will be held on the application.

The commissioner’s court will determine whether or not the landowner has no access to their land and may even issue an order to create a public road.

This is entirely within the commissioner’s discretion and depends on a variety of factors.

So there is no guarantee that you will be successful in your bi.

Look at your local laws and discover whether this is an option for you!

Final thoughts

And there you have it!

Landlocked property isn’t worthless, but it often takes some time and effort before it’s valuable.

This isn’t the type of vacant land to buy on a whim.

Be sure to consult local legal professionals so you know your prospects and be prepared to go to court if the situation requires it.

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Erika Gokce Capital

Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.


22 thoughts on “Buying Landlocked Property? 13 Things (2024) You Must Know”

  1. Thank you for this blog! It was so well written and easy to understand. I’m in law school and we are studying real estate law now!

    • Thank you, Cassie! Good luck in your law career and please let us know if we missed anything.

  2. Hello, can i access my landlocked property by a helicopter wihout any issues?

    • Hello Al, that’s a good question! I would check with the county to see if they have any rules that regulate this.

  3. We own a business and the PROPERTY in NJ for over 50 years. In the back of our businessthere is a 70×70 piece of land that we have squatted on for paRking since it can oNly be access by crossing our property. ( it is landlocked because the other border is a creek and aledge)It is landlocked. We now want to sell our pr and want to include that land. How can we do it quickly so we can sell it?

    • Hello Joann, you may be able to either buy it from the owner if you can get their contact information, have a lot line adjustment recorded to incorporate the sliver into your property or you may be able to file an adverse possession suit. Either way, you will want to check with a local real estate attorney and also work with the local planning office.
      You may want to take a look at our article on lot line adjustments:

  4. I own 4 acres and is landlock in a ranch in Texas. The land that surrounds me
    is exempt because of cattle. Their cattle are using my land. My question is can I get the same exemption as the owner ?

    • Hello Daniel, I would check with a local land use attorney to see what you are able to do.

  5. Very interesting and useful. Looking at a cheap and otherwise attractive landlocked property. Good to have an explanation.

    • Thank you, Richard. I’m so glad our article was helpful!

  6. I bought .34 acres of land in FL. Its landlocked. The city zoning told me that the property is 1400 feet from the nearest road. I don’t have money to secure a road, but I need a home. Is there a way to ho around this or get help with building a at least a dirt road? Thanks

    • Hello Annette, you may want to give the county planning and/or building department a call to see if they can help.

  7. It is my understanding that “Federal Law” mandates “Easement By Necessity”!
    Also, If a parcel is purchased and subdivided, you now have several owners needing access, “Eminent Domain” would take effect, correct?

    • Hello Mitch, you should speak with a local land use attorney, but that is not my understanding of how eminent domain works.

  8. If there’s a landlocked piece of property between my neighbor and I that someone else owned but my neighbor bought. is he entitled to the Right of passage thru my property that was give to the other owner before i bought my property ? or can i refuse because he has property adjacent to the locked property as I , and has his own the he can pass thru?

    • Hello Gary, the rules regarding easements depend on the state and specifics of the easement in question, so I would recommend speaking with a local real estate attorney; however, my understanding is that typically an easement provides right of access regardless of whether that access is actually “needed” or not. I hope this helps!

  9. I purchased a landlocked property in February of 2001. I was a first time buyer, and was told by my realtor that there was no isue regarding access. The property was built in 1960, and enjoyed unrestricted access for forty years. In June of 2001, our neighbor aquired a Fee Simple Quitclaim Deed, from either the son or the grandson of the developer. This gave her an interest in the access road (easement). Due to continual harassment, we took our neighbor to court. A settlement was reached, giving us a right of way and the right to maintain the easement. Our neighbor has since died, and her adult children are taking us back to court in an attempt to deny, or restrict our access and maintenance rights.

    You can’t make this stuff up!


    • Wow, that’s quite a saga. Thank you for sharing!

  10. hi, I am in process to buy landlock land in NJ. I see that some of the lots arround me are owned by township and on map i can see road name but road is not develop yet….. what should i consider??? if in future their might be road so still i need permission to access or what i can do now?

    their is no road access at moment and whole lots sarrounding me are vacant land.

    • Hello Kajal, you should first determine whether the property has legal access. If it does not, you would need to get an easement in order to have the right to access the property. If it has legal access, but no physical access, you may need to develop a road to the property yourself. A title company or local real estate attorney should be able to help you determine whether the lot has legal access.

  11. Hi Erika, I have along with my 2 brothers inherited a piece of land locked property. Was part of family home. It is in Westchester county, NY. Consist of 2 building lots. The town to appease my Dad installed a sewer spur to the property
    by going through neighbors property. I don’t know if there is water. They gave an easement. Because for whatever reason the easement was taken away. The neighbor may not have wanted to. Yet he took our fence down and pushed his property back into ours. He no longer alive and another person owns the house.
    My observation is, the property of our neighbors is rectangular. The house is at one end and the sewer spur is at the other end along the property line of adjacent neighbor. One, why not trade property that has been taken, two, I been told to sell our property to him. If we do that for mere pennies he has property with utilities and makes out big. The property has town property to one side and neighbors to the other. It is full of trash from everyone we have no means of cleaning. I would like to do the proper thing with this property and stop paying taxes on it. Yes, at one time it was sentimental. My parents cleared the land, refurbished the house we grew up in. That’s no more the state took it to have an off ramp. About 13 years ago our neighbor offered 1200. that was rude since he has been using some of our land as a back yard because he has very little in the beginning. Help, Any suggestions Erika? Thank you, Louise

    • Hello Louise, I’m sorry to hear about your issues. Unfortunately, the best I can do is recommend speaking with a real estate attorney to see if there are any potential adverse possession issues as well as what you can do to perhaps get the easement back. You may also want to speak with a real estate agent to see how much you could get for the property if you were to put it on the market. I hope this helps!


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