We own land and a house accessed by a road I have a right of way on. I share that right of way with several other landowners in the area. Over the last eight years, I've spent a considerable amount of time and money maintaining this road. Another landowner who uses the right of way has recently started having some of his land logged, so now there are big logging trucks full of logs driving over this road. They've created potholes, crushed culverts and even damaged the bridge. No one seems to want to take responsibility for the repairs. We all use the road, but only one landowner benefitted by the sale of the lumber, so shouldn't that landowner repair the damage?
Determining who has the duty to fix a shared private road can be tricky and there are several factors that you may have to consider. First, check to see if an agreement was made concerning maintenance issues. If there is an agreement, it will determine how the situation is to be resolved. Sometimes these type of agreements are included with the easement filed at the courthouse, but typically the maintenance issue is never addressed.
If there is no agreement on maintenance, you will probably need a local attorney to look into the problem. Different states may have statutes that modify the basic common law; however, the general rule on maintenance of a shared, private road is that all of the parties who have a legal interest in the road have a responsibility to maintain it. Forcing any one of the users to make the repairs (even though in this case a single landowner seems to be responsible for the majority of the damage) may be a difficult task and would almost certainly require legal counsel.
Your state may very well have a statute or case that directly addresses this issue, which is why it's important to work with a local attorney to decide your best course of action.
-- Rusty W. Rumley
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