The requirement for creation of a private road by strict necessity was recently addressed by the Missouri Court of Appeals in a suit brought by a farmer in southern Missouri to create a mile-long road on an adjacent neighbor’s property. While the court will use its equitable power to make certain that no parcel of real property is landlocked, thereby denying the owner thereof the uses permitted by law, the exercise of such power may be afforded by only strict necessity. However, such equitable power in favor of one party creates a subservient estate in the adjacent property owner’s land, and thus strict compliance with the Missouri statute governing such situations must be strictly adhered to.
In this recent case, the owners of the property, 320 acres of farm land, sought a one mile private road across the adjacent property owner’s land, notwithstanding that the farm property abutted County Road 702. The problem, in the farmer’s eyes, was that County Road 702 had a weight limit on a bridge over which the farmer needed to regularly move farming equipment. Arguing that his property was “functionally landlocked,” the court rejected the farmer’s argument on the basis that Missouri statute requires that only real property for which there is no access or insufficiently wide access to a public road is eligible to have a private road declared across an adjacent property owner’s land.
Indeed, the court found that access did exist, albeit in the eyes of the farmer insufficient to efficiently move farming equipment to the farm. The court reaffirmed the admonition that proceedings to declare private roads “are against the common law and the common rights, and must, therefore be strictly construed,” and thus denied the relief requested.
A full copy of the decision by the Missouri Court of Appeals can be found here.