What is an Unadopted Road

There are apparently an estimated number of 40,000 unadopted roads in England and Wales thought to comprise 4,000 miles of road, but what is an unadopted road? An unadopted road (or a private road) is a road that is not maintained by a highway authority as defined by Highways Act 1980. As the Local Highway Authority has not agreed to maintain the road at the public expense (in 2009, the government estimated that it would cost £3 billion to bring these roads to an adoptable standard), the road remains unadopted. The responsibility of maintaining the unadopted road then falls upon the landowner or landowners, usually a private individual, company or organisation. If the unadopted road is residential, the responsibility falls upon the frontagers – those who own the property or properties with frontages to the road.

If you are looking to buy a property situated on an unadopted road, you need to be aware of your liability for the road. Before buying a house on an unadopted road, you should consider whether the road requires any repair and how much it will cost, as well as who else shares the road and who will be using it. It’s also worth noting that as the council doesn’t pay for the unadopted road, rubbish collectors may not even travel down the road on their route so you would have to double-check with your local council if this is the case or not.

Neighbours Sharing An Unadopted Road

If you share the unadopted road with other residents, there may be a communal agreement in place with the neighbours to all contribute equally toward the maintenance and insurance of the road. Especially if the unadopted road has a lot of potholes. However, despite the inconvenience of having to privately maintain the road, many say that they enjoy the peace and quiet and the independence of living on an unadopted road.

Who’s Liable For Accidents On An Unadopted Road?

Private Road Insurance (or Unadopted Road Insurance) is a crucial type of land insurance for those who own an unadopted road as, if anyone were to have an accident on the road, the property owner could be held liable for any injuries caused to the third-party. Therefore it is important to maintain the road to an acceptable standard. Though Unadopted Road Insurance is not a legal requirement, if your unadopted road is open for public access then it should be seriously considered as a way to financially protect yourself should the worst come to the worst. If there are multiple residents on the road, it is common for the residents to share the Unadopted Road Insurance policy.

If the owner of an unadopted road is unknown, you can usually trace the land owner by Land Register (if the road is registered) or by finding out who the original developer of the road was. However, the frontagers of the unadopted road can take over the maintenance and management of the road and be protected by law until the true owner comes forward.

Please contact us if you have any questions in regards to Unadopted Road Insurance! You can call us free on 0800 1696137

10 Responses to What is an Unadopted (Private) Road?
  1. Dear Sir/Madam,
    I’m considering purchasing a property in Devon and a search has revealed that it is in an unadopted road. Can we take out insurance? If so how much.

  2. If part of an unadapted road has no house frontage who is responsible for any vegetation such as knotweed growing alongside a fence belonging to a house in the next road.

    • If there is knotweed growing from a neighbouring property that has spread within the boundaries of your land or road you should raise awareness with the neighbour in question and attempt to come to an amicable agreement for its removal. If this does not resolve the issue then you should seek legal advice.

  3. what if the original owner of the unadopted road has gone into liquidation

    • If you need to make an insurance claim against the owner of an unadopted road and that owner is bankrupt or has gone into liquidation, you will certainly encounter difficulties. If insurance was in place at the time of the incident and the costs of the insurance had been paid, the policy should remain effective and a claim could still be made. There would still potentially be problems in respect of the administration of the claim along with the payment of the excess on the policy. Without this though, you would simply become a creditor of the person or company.

  4. Where the known registered road owners are refusing to maintain the road to an acceptable standard (ie large deep potholes and flooding), what rights do the residents have to taking on the resurfacing themselves?

    • I would doubt the residents have any rights to do anything to the road if they do not own it. Is there any contract written between the residents and the road owner? If so, there may be a duty of maintenance on the road owners behalf. The road owners lack of maintenance is obviously putting them at high risk for an injury or damage claim so would be in their interest to make the repairs but ultimately it is their decision. I would suggest the best thing to do it to seek legal advice on this matter.

  5. How would the insurance company look on incidents as a result of snow/ice on an unadopted road? It is a private residential road with multiple residences, is there an expectation that the road will be cleared of snow/gritted?

    • You should not be liable in respect of incidents in connection with snow and ice as these are an act of nature. If you are deemed liable for an incident, there are no specific exclusions on weather conditions.


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