Landlocked Land

Real Estate Agent

 Occasionally over the years you come across a parcel of land, which is landlocked. Landlocked land is a term used when a property actually has no legal easement or recorded document that describes in writing the way a property accesses land that does not front a public road or street. It is usually a parcel of land that is surrounded by land owned by others on all sides. The most common questions asked about landlocked land, is how did it become landlocked and what are the remedies to fix the problem?

One simple way it can happen is basically when an owner divides off a smaller tract at the back of the property to give to a family member from the larger parcel. The original owner does not know, or forgot to include an easement over that dirt trail leading to the back forty acres that was conveyed. By not seeking the advise and assistance of an attorney to draft an easement or by not having the property surveyed, whereby the surveyor would have provided an easement, the parcel was simply deeded to a family member as gift or inheritance. The lack of easement was simply, at this time, not a concern and was forgotten. As often is the case, years later, the front parcel then gets sold to another and another and the lack of legal ingress and egress is not discovered and not corrected.

Much later in time this chain of events will eventually come back to haunt the original family member who was gifted or inherited the land without legal access. As now, the landlocked landowner desires to sell and of course wants a good price for the parcel. So what are the options available to correct the problem? Essentially there are 3 things to explore.

1.       Is to sell to one of the adjoining landowners, usually for less than market value. Because the property is not marketable to another.

2.       Is to attempt to buy or obtain a written easement from the current landowner along the old dirt road. Of course this will require a surveyed legal description of the location of the easement and a signature of the landowner of the land the easement crosses.

3.       And finally, the least favored, is if the current owner won't agree to grant an easement then the landlocked owner will need to hire an attorney to litigate the problem.

Land locking usually does not happen today as it had in the past times. This is because our current subdivision laws do a good job of requiring surveys to be completed whenever land is being divided. This is done to ensure that every parcel has legal access on every legally plated lot or tract of land. Additionally, most land sold today also has a title search completed by a title company, which will verify the access when search is ordered. If you plan to purchase land that is not currently surveyed, it is always advisable to obtain a survey prior to closing even if it has roadway frontage, thus insuring that it really does have legal access.  


Are you searching for homes to buy in Viroqua or Vernon County Wisconsin

call Mary Strang  RE/MAX Hill Country Realty 608-606-2999

About the author:

Mary Strang is the Broker-owner of RE/MAX Hill Country Realty located in Viroqua, WI. Home to Organic farming, a small rural city population of about 4000 and a great place to live! Copyright © 2009 by Mary Strang.  All rights reserved... " Landlocked Land"  the blog post was written by Mary Strang is believed accurate but may not be guaranteed.





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Real Estate General Information
Wisconsin Vernon County

Comments 7 New Comment

Eric Kodner
Wayzata Lakes Realty: Twin Cities, Madeline Island
Wayzata Lakes Realty: Eric Kodner Sells Twin Cities Homes

This might not apply in all states or areas, but before going to a huge amount of trouble to remedy a landlocked parcel, the seller should determine if the lot conforms to zoning requirements.  That is, once an easement is purchased or otherwise negotiated, will it meet minimum lot size requirements in local zoning and will it be buildable or improvable? 

If the landlocked parcel is non-conforming and local zoning authorities won't permit it to be developed, then the best remedy is probably to sell it to a neighbor. 

September 22, 2007 07:16 AM
Konnie McCarthy
Associate Broker - VA & MD
Realty Direct, LLC/Realty Direct, Inc.
actually I have a listing that is land locked and it is a problem..the seller keeps telling me it is not a problem the buyer can just "get an easement" but he does not realize no on one wants to do addition to the expense of buying I am in a bit of a sticky situation here...
September 22, 2007 07:36 AM
Craig Smith
Frederick MD Real Estate
Re/Max Achievers

Konnie- I agree no buyer wants to deal with trying to obtain a legal easement. It just isn't worth it most times.

I've been working with a seller that has 2 lots that are landlocked and told him I thought it was going to be an issue getting an easement from another property owner. He told me that they have a good relationship with that property owner and they were going to give them a small piece of land to get the easement. Well here we are. The adjacent property owner does not want to grant easement defintely to both lots, possibly one though. That owner has already gotten a lawyer.  Not sure how this will turn out.

September 22, 2007 07:58 AM
Jon Angevine
Calgary Real Estate & Condos
Discover Real Estate

This shows you that you really have to careful in buying land to make sure that you do have access.  A simple verbal agreement with an adjoining landlord is never enough especially when it comes time to sell.  A great post and I am sure something most people would have never thought of.

September 22, 2007 08:08 AM
Mary Strang
Real Estate

Gary: Yes a helicopter will work to get you in and out, but not fix the problem, I do mention that choice when coming across landlocked properties.

Brian: thanks for reading

Eric: Yes, As you pointed out zoning prevents this but, in many small rural markets there is sometimes no zoning in place, this is changing with new mandated land use rules now coming into play.

Connie: It is a problem, no easement no sale other than to the neighbor. Craig has it right the next step is the attorney's office.

Jon: It is important to be careful when buying rural land, because land-locking can happen too when older surveys are in place but the road gets moved. I had one experience with the highway being rebuilt and moved over when widened, the road construction was done and changed the location in relationship to a survey on an entire subdivision back in the early 70's.  This essentially landlocked 50 parcels of land by no more than 75 feet. It happened because the State owned all the land the highway was on back then, and the only access was off the highway up to the old highway, now a gap was there between the old location and the new location of the right of way of the highway.  The closing of course was delayed waiting for the required easement form the State to correct this, but no one knew  about this for years until the title company did their job and discovered this. It required a creative easement language to cover all the land owners and future land owners after the fact.  

September 22, 2007 10:23 AM

Mary Strang

Real Estate
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A Real Estate Blog about our Rural Wisconsin Marketplace… intended to educate and inform readers interested in regional real estate news, trends, local property issues and random thoughts. Welcome to a Blogging tour across Vernon County Wisconsin.