How to share maintenance of private road?
May 18, 2020 6:05 PM   Subscribe

I live on a two mile dirt road shared by about 30 families. I thought the repair costs should be shared by people who drive over a spot. Not "everyone takes care of only in front of their house". Who is right?

For example, I paid for a major improvement at the end of the street ($800). I want to divide the cost between everyone who has been driving over that spot and creating wear and tear.

I only do what the local road guru tells me to do. And I only do what is absolutely necessary. So ppl can't complain I am overdoing it or doing it wrong.

Almost no one here has money to pay for projects up front. No one repairs just in front of their house. They wait for me to get the repairs done and then about half of the people chip in.

Having people just do in front of their houses would never work. They just wouldn't. So that's out. In the past I have said I accept barter but that never pans out so not doing that anymore.

I want to make everything clear so I made a map and I am going to ask everyone who drives over my improvement to pitch in.

The thing that I had to fix was a giant mudpit that I almost tipped my car in twice last season. I fixed it by putting road fabric down and then layering the correct gravel I was told to use and and a neighbor used his machines to round the top. It is a thing of beauty and fixed the problem.

Am I doing this right?

The main question I have is should people just pitch in on spots that they drive over every day or are they only responsible for what is in front of their house?
posted by cda to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
posted by at at 6:16 PM on May 18, 2020

I hate to ask the obvious question - but what do the legal agreements for the road say? If it is a city road, you shouldn't be doing maintenance - you should go to the city. If it is a private road, there should be agreements or easements that specify maintenance requirements. For instance, on a shared driveway I have, the easement governing the driveway indicates that owners maintain the portion of the driveway that resides on their property. This means I am responsible for slightly more maintenance than my neighboring property, despite each of us using the driveway equally.
posted by saeculorum at 6:50 PM on May 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

at, that was interesting thread but not quite fitting to my problem. For one thing there is no way my neighbors would agree to splitting all the road maintenance between everyone. The front ppl are rich the ppl who live at the end are poor. The rich will in no way pay for the road at the end. Not going to happen. The people at the end may possibly split the cost of the road they cause wear and tear on by I am afraid if I propose that they are going to come back at me "we are only responsible for the road in front of our house" and then just never do anything.
posted by cda at 6:55 PM on May 18, 2020

It's a private road. I don't know about any agreements but maybe the county planners would know.
posted by cda at 6:57 PM on May 18, 2020

I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. In general, unless an easement specifically defines maintenance requirements, the owner of the "dominant estate" (the property granting an easement) is solely responsible for maintenance over the area granted by an easement. The "servient estate" (the property receiving the easement) has no responsibility for maintenance unless the easement specifically requires it.

In short, unless the easements that govern the use of the roads require each house to maintain other parts of the road, then those houses are only responsible for the portion of the road in front of their house.

Hence, you should find the easements, as they will answer your question.
posted by saeculorum at 7:11 PM on May 18, 2020 [6 favorites]

ok, I think I understand what to do next. thanks everyone
posted by cda at 8:07 PM on May 18, 2020

From a morality POV and just being a good neighbour everyone should chip in. Is there any way a weighted-payment would be acceptable? So at least everyone contributed something, even if the wealthy ones only do say a few percent So this latest one is $800? That's $26.70 a house - would this be an annual normal?

I used to live on just such a road and the "dominant estate" paid for maintenance, although that was because they felt they should. This was Queenstown NZ where long-term council dysfunction has led to dozens of roads inside town boundaries that are off council's books.
posted by unearthed at 8:11 PM on May 18, 2020

In my locale it would be very odd to have a private road being used by that many properties with no easement. How do you know that it is a private road? Does your deed or your neighbor's deeds say anything about the road or alternate methods of accessing your/their property? Governing bodies usually frown on creating land parcels with no legal access. So if it isn't a public road, there should be some sort of easement/agreement creating/mentioning the private road and who has rights to access it - is there one and does it say anything about road maintenance? If there are older people who have lived in the neighborhood a long time, they might remember something.
posted by Blue Genie at 8:14 PM on May 18, 2020

unearthed - what happened is the rich ppl are doing just in front of their houses and not asking the poor ppl to pitch in. But on the poor end of the street I am the richest so I pay for the road and ask ppl to pitch in because they don't have the money to do a project in front of their house ($800). What I'm proposing is to flip it and we at the end would chip in for work up front (because it would probably be only $25 a year). But then the people at the end would need to pitch in for any projects at the end, too. They will balk.
The one elder we have is happy to have me pay for everything on our end. Never pitches in.
We don't have a road maintenance agreement. And I am going to find out about easements but I think what I am prepared to do is present what I have learned to everybody and come to an informal agreement - I can't make ppl pay if they don't want to. And I am not taking anyone to court. I'm just going to try to get ppl to agree on what to do or just never fix our end of the road again. Which would suck for me. Maybe I will move if ppl don't agree.
posted by cda at 9:16 PM on May 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm just going to try to get ppl to agree on what to do or just never fix our end of the road again.

If "our end of the road" is on your property and other people have an easement allowing access to it, its your responsibility to maintain it regardless of if you want to or not. It's certainly fine to propose alternate ways of funding the repairs. However, again, the default (lest the easement say otherwise) is that property owners are obligated to maintain their property that other people have easement access to, but correspondingly are only obligated to maintain their own property.

It sounds like you are perhaps repairing other peoples' property. That's very nice of you, but you should view it as a gift, not as something that instills obligation on other people unless you get their agreement in advance.
posted by saeculorum at 9:39 PM on May 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

I hear what you are saying saeculorum - it makes sense to me now. I am fixing other ppls property. If they don't fix their own I can't really take them to court or anything like that - that would be awful, so what I will do is propose we share the cost in an informal way and if ppl don't go for that I'll have to either live with it or move.
posted by cda at 11:17 PM on May 18, 2020

cda, moving as a last resort, yes, that's what we did when we found that not only were residents liable for the road, but also for the services buried under the road!
posted by unearthed at 3:26 AM on May 19, 2020

Getting money after the fact is quite difficult. But, write to your neighbors and ask for assistance, and ask them to meet online in a text forum to discuss the issue. I have deeded access to a boat launch, @30' of gravel road to the lake across the street. When asked for fund to repair it, I was unable to contribute at the time. No one asked my opinion which would be, set up a fund so people can contribute over time. Also, the launch is used by tons of people with no rights, and I'd love to discuss ways of addressing that. So, ask. But a live meeting will be difficult, esp. during PandemicTime, but even otherwise.
posted by theora55 at 9:54 AM on May 19, 2020

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