“Landlocked” Lot Has Right of Access

Question: My parents bought a 5-acre lot near Prescott almost 40 years ago back in the “land fraud” days of the infamous Ned Warren. They have paid property taxes for years. Both parents died in the last year, and my sister and I have just inherited this 5-acre lot. We talked to a real estate broker in Prescott who said that the 5-acre lot might have some value, but the 5-acre lot is “landlocked” because the neighbors don’t want a home on that 5-acre lot that would obstruct their views. Therefore, he didn’t want the listing to sell the 5-acre lot. What do we do now? What does “landlocked” mean? How do we “unlock” this lot?

Answer: In the 1970s before any subdivision regulation in Arizona, the “land fraud king” Ned Warren sold thousands of Arizona lots throughout the United States and Europe. Ned Warren had major advertising in Reader’s Digest. These lots were located from Cochise County to Yavapai County to Coconino County (“a walk to the Grand Canyon,” but the lot was 50 miles away!), but had no access to roads or to utilities such as telephone and water. Many of these lots that were sold, e.g., the lots sold in Cochise County, still have no value today. Lots sold in the Prescott area, however, do have significant value today.

In regard to “landlocked,” the general rule going back to early English common law is that land cannot be “landlocked.” The reason is that the King of England wanted to collect taxes on land at the highest value, which required access. Therefore, you should contact an attorney to assist you to get access to a public highway either by negotiating an access route with your neighbors, by an implied way of necessity, or by private condemnation.

An implied way of necessity implies access based on prior common ownership of your lot and a neighbor’s lot, and does not require payment of compensation to your neighbor for this access. Private condemnation from your property to a public road (similar to public condemnation by ADOT for a freeway) does require compensation to your neighbor under A.R.S. § 12-1202(A) and Article 2, Section 17 of the Arizona Constitution.

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