Who Maintains Those Country Roads?

© ktc 2010

Who Maintains Those Country Roads?

When buyers shop for homes and property in more rural settings — in places like Fallbrook, De Luz, or Rainbow for instance — they often ask questions about road ownership and maintenance. Most city dwellers don’t think about these matters, because if a road is federal, state, county, or city owned; it’s maintained by a governmental agency with funds generated from taxes and assessments. But when considering the purchase of real estate in rural settings or even in some suburban settings, where access to land or homes is by private road, it helps to have a bit more knowledge about the subject.

In modern suburban subdivisions, many private roads are maintained by “home owners associations” (HOAs) funded by assessments. Many buyers are familiar with this type of community. But in older developments or in many rural settings, things can get a bit more nuanced because private road maintenance is often subject to control and management by loosely allied adjacent property owners. In those cases, where there is no homeowner’s association, we sometimes see formal or informal “road maintenance agreements” between neighbors who work together to keep roadways repaired and in good working order. If there is no current agreement in place, it’s possible the adjacent property owners could be required by law to contribute to the cost of maintaining a private road. If you have concerns prior to purchase of any property, you should always consult an attorney.

In some areas there is the special case of private road that is governed by “Permanent Road Divisions (PRDs), which are cooperative agreements between private land owners and the County government. (Sometimes residents refer to PRDs as “Private Road Districts”.) PRDs are funded by special assessments to properties that most directly benefit from the use of the road. In some cases, the assessed funds collected by a PRD are matched (by some percentage) by the county, but more often private property owners receive no subsidy from the County. This means that if your property is linked to a PRD road, you are assessed an annual fee, which is collected by the county, and which varies from PRD to PRD.

If a community road is not governed by a PRD, it’s possible to form one. In San Diego County, property owners must make a formal request to the San Diego County Department of Public Works to form a PRD and this will initiate a 12 to 18 month process of review and approval by both the County and a specified majority of effected property owners (San Diego County requires 60% approval). Once a PRD is established, the county participates in managing these roads, unless the PRD is later dissolved.

When you decide to purchase a home, it’s a good idea to make sure you understand what roadway issues will affect the property. Consult with a real estate attorney if you have concerns or special issues.

This is a map of San Diego County Maintained Roads and PRDs.
(Zoom in by entering an appropriate street address. Be patient. This map can load slowly)

More San Diego County road links. Click here.

Published on Sunday, April 3, 2011

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