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Understanding rights of way in property law

Understanding Rights of Way in Property Law

As property solicitors at SQE Property Law & Land Law, we often deal with various legal matters related to property ownership and rights. One important aspect of property law that is often misunderstood is the concept of rights of way. In this blog post, we will delve into the details of rights of way in property law, explaining what they are, how they are created, and what rights and responsibilities they entail.

What Is a Right of Way?

A right of way is a legal right that allows a person to pass through or over another person’s property. It grants the holder of the right the legal authority to use a specific pathway, usually for access purposes, even though they may not own that land. The most common example of a right of way is a private driveway that allows access to multiple properties.

How Are Rights of Way Created?

Rights of way can be created in several ways, depending on the circumstances and legal requirements. The most common methods include:

1. Express grant: A right of way can be expressly granted in a deed or agreement between the landowner and the person seeking the right. This agreement will outline the terms and conditions under which the right of way can be exercised.

2. Implication: Sometimes, a right of way can be implied based on the actions and circumstances surrounding the property. This can occur when a property is divided, and one part becomes landlocked, requiring access over another part of the property.

3. Prescription: In certain cases, a right of way can be acquired through prescription. This means that the right has been continuously and openly used for a specific period of time, usually at least 20 years.

Understanding the Rights and Responsibilities

When it comes to rights of way, it is crucial to understand both the rights and responsibilities of the parties involved. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

1. Use for the specified purpose: A right of way is typically granted for a specific purpose, such as access to a neighboring property. It is important to ensure that the right is used only for its intended purpose and not abused or used for other reasons.

2. Maintenance and repair: While the landowner retains ownership of the property, the holder of the right of way is responsible for maintaining and repairing the pathway. This includes keeping it clear and safe for use.

3. Non-obstruction: The landowner is not allowed to obstruct or hinder the exercise of the right of way. This means that they cannot put up fences, gates, or any other obstacles that would prevent or interfere with the use of the pathway.

4. Limits and restrictions: In some cases, rights of way may have limits and restrictions imposed by the grantor or by law. For example, there may be restrictions on the types of vehicles that can use the pathway or limitations on the hours of use.

Seeking Legal Advice

If you are involved in a situation where a right of way is at issue, it is crucial to seek legal advice from an experienced property solicitor. They will be able to review the relevant documents, assess the circumstances, and provide you with the necessary guidance to protect your rights and interests.


Understanding rights of way in property law is essential for both landowners and those seeking access to neighboring properties. By knowing how rights of way are created and the rights and responsibilities they entail, you can navigate property ownership with confidence. If you require legal assistance or have any questions about rights of way, don’t hesitate to reach out to SQE Property Law & Land Law for expert advice and guidance.

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