Land Access Disputes

In the “bundle of sticks” that comprise real property ownership, one of the most important is access. Without legal access to the land, use of property may be stymied and its value significantly diminished. While urban and suburban developments have clearly defined streets and roads established by recorded plots, the legal right to access rural or mountain property not contiguous to public highways is usually less certain. Without a legal document creating a right of access to land such as an easement, litigation sometimes becomes necessary to establish that right. This is done under various legal theories such as easements by necessity, or prescriptive easements. In recent years with mountain property values increasing significantly, litigants have also asserted claims that particular routes are public roads based on historical use. Land access litigation is a complicated area of the law that can require historical research dating back more than a century, particularly if mining claims are involved.