Laura Wilkinson of AMD Solicitors provides an insight into use of rear accessways and lanes.


In many parts of Bristol there are lanes or access paths to the rear of properties used either to gain access to garages or as a pedestrian right of way for the removal of rubbish.  As a property owner it is important to understand whether you have a right to use a rear accessway.


A right of way may exist in one of the following ways:-


1. A public right of way


This is a general right which can be enjoyed by the public over an adopted highway or path which is maintained by the Local Authority.  A Local Search undertaken at the time of your purchase should show whether the accessway is adopted by the Local Authority.


2. A private right of way


This can be established either by:-


  • An express agreement contained in historic deeds giving the owner of the property a right of way.  The deed should specify the exact route, any restrictions on the extent of the width or height of the right of way whether it is on foot and/or with vehicles.  Sometimes there may be conditions on the time of day that the right can be used and who will be responsible for the maintenance and repair of it.
  • Even if there have been no express rights of way granted, it is possible that a private right of way can be established through evidence of long use.  This is called a right “by prescription”.  Provided it can be shown that it has been used for over 20 years without permission from a third party or in secret and that no payment has been made for the use of it, then a right of way can be established.


How can I use the right of way?

  • The right of way can only be used for the purposes and over the extent of the land set out in the original deed or as established over the 20 year period.
  • A private right of way is not personal to the people who can use it but belongs to the property and therefore the owner of the property benefitting from the right of way will only have the right to use it during their ownership.
  • The right of way should not be obstructed in any way.


Repairing a private right of way


Often no one party can be identified as responsible for the maintenance and repair of an accessway.  In this instance the usual practice is for the owners of adjoining properties to join together informally to contribute towards any repairs or, alternatively, each individual property owner will maintain the part adjoining their property.  Buyers should therefore be aware that private lanes may therefore not be maintained and repaired to the highest standard.


AMD Solicitors have teams of experienced conveyancers with a wealth of experience in all aspects of buying and selling properties.


We take pride in our commitment to excellence in providing a high quality professional conveyancing service for our clients.  We can assist you with buying and selling leasehold or freehold properties and flats and houses of all types.


For a fee estimate or to discuss your property sale or purchase contact Laura Wilkinson or one of her colleagues on 0117 9735647 or pop into one of our four Bristol offices or email:


This article is provided for general information purposes only and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at the date of uploading. This article should not be relied upon as legal advice pertaining to any specific factual situation. Legal decisions should be made only after proper consultation with a legal professional of your choosing.

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Laura Wilkinson

Solicitor and Head of the Residential Property Department

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