Q. What are unadopted roads, and should I avoid buying a house on one?



A. Unadopted or private roads are basically roads which, while they may be public rights of way, do not actually belong to the public road network. In other words, they are not owned by the local authority – normally the County Council. There are tens of thousands of such roads all over England and Wales. They come in all shapes and sizes, from tree-lined suburban avenues of elegant Victorian villas, through brand new, highly exclusive developments, to ill-lit, unmetalled country lanes.

The key thing that all unadopted roads have in common is the fact that they are not maintained out of the public purse. Instead, responsibility for their upkeep rests entirely with the residents and/or property-owners. For this to work properly, a degree of organisation is obviously required. This is best handled through a special residents’ association, or even a private company, which collects contributions, organises the maintenance and deals with other issues such as insurance, parking, tree surgery and so forth.

If you are thinking of buying a house in an unadopted road, your solicitor will be able to check whether there is a an active residents’ organisation of this kind, how it works, what obligations it places you under, and how much it is likely to cost annually. Generally speaking, where such arrangements are in place – and are affordable, of course - there should be no cause for concern.

Things are rather different in cases where no such formal arrangements exist – particularly in rural areas, where without regular maintenance, unmade roads can deteriorate alarmingly. Of course, this may not bother you personally, but it could affect the future saleability of your home.

One final point. No local authority will adopt a road unless and until it has been completed to the minimum statutory standards. This is only really worth bearing in mind in those thankfully fairly rare cases where a developer goes out of business before finishing the roadways associated with a new development, and without having taken out appropriate insurance cover. Again, this might not bother you, but such a situation - if it remains unresolved - could materially affect resale values.