A private road is a roadway that has never been dedicated or accepted as a public roadway by the governing authority. It may have been maintained by a beneficial easement or reciprocal easement rights. Sometimes a percentage of ownership of the roadway is shared by all who use it for access to their properties.
The establishing of a private road can be a complicated process that involves statutory procedures and fact-finding hearings. Some statutes require that an applicant make a petition with the court and then have viewers, commissioners or jurors inspect the affected area to decide whether to establish the road.
If the application conforms to all statutory requirements, the court may issue a decision on the road's establishment. The deciding factor is often whether the proposed route is the least intrusive means of using the property. Distance, practicality, the applicant's interests and statutory regulations are also factors.
It is important to note that if the initial construction of a private road is done properly it will save money in maintenance costs. Nevertheless, it is vital that the proper design and construction of a private road be coupled with a good prearranged maintenance agreement to ensure that the road does not become neglected and will not fall into disrepair.
It is common to see that some of the roads in a community are deeded to a homeowners association (HOA). When a developer builds a new development, the roads that are accessed through the lot owner's lots are considered private roads, even if the road has been paved or is asphalted. When a private road falls into disrepair, it can cause safety problems and may be costly to repair. Fortunately, some states allow homeowners associations to petition the Department of Transportation to take over the responsibility of maintaining a private road.