Unique Living
May 24th, 2018 | by Serge Cowan

What You Need to Know About Rights of Way on International Property

A right of way issue can seem serious when purchasing a villa abroad, but it doesn’t have to be the deal-breaker you might think. In many cases, it’s more a question of considering your lifestyle and addressing your priorities. Here are some insights from an expert.

What are rights of way?

If you have a right of way through the grounds of a property, this means a member of the public or just a neighbour is legally permitted to pass along a designated route within it. Examples may include a public footpath at the bottom of your garden, say, if you have a large plot of land that backs onto a golf course. As you might imagine, rights of way can cause problems for the owner of the property.

Right of way issues occasionally arise in the UK property market, and the same is true when buying abroad – particularly in areas like the French Riviera. In some cases, it’s permissible for members of the public or neighbours to walk across your plot. The big question is: to what extent will this be a problem for you?

They can create obstacles to the purchase

Depending on the progress of the sale, rights of way can cause headaches. Sometimes, the seller doesn’t consider the right of way to have a huge impact on the property, so they don’t disclose it until some way into the process (or it might come up in the notary’s report). Unfortunately, a buyer will usually consider it essential that they are informed of any rights of way as soon as possible. As you might imagine, this opposition of attitudes can sometimes result in a breakdown in negotiations.

It’s important to establish the facts right from the start of the sale. That’s why we go out of our way to identify any rights of way within the plot that you’re buying, for instance. That way everyone knows where they stand right from the start, and any misunderstandings are avoided.

Are you definite it will bother you?

The natural reaction is to be discouraged by the thought of the public having legal access to your property. But have you taken the time to consider the practical implications of the right of way? For instance, have you asked whether there might be a good workaround? If it’s a public right of way and it’s used regularly, it may be possible to hide the footpath by planting a hedge or erecting a fence. In a case like this, the right of way is not going to impact your living standards in any way when you’re at your property – other than any maintenance required on the hedge, of course.

The property might be your perfect choice in every possible aspect except the right of way, so the question to ask yourself is, to what extent will it have a genuine impact on your lifestyle? If it’s just a case of your neighbour having access to put out their bins once a week, is this likely to have much of an impact on you? Try to imagine the long-term implications, and assess realistically whether it force you to change the way you would live on the property. For instance, does the right of way cross near to your swimming pool or terrace? You might, understandably, consider something like that too intrusive – it might make you and your family feel uncomfortable – but you may not be prepared to walk away from the purchase just because a view will be slightly spoiled.

Some Words of Advice

I’d always recommend visiting the property and seeing it in person. That’s the only way to establish whether the right of way will have a real impact on your lifestyle.

After seeking the advice of a buyer-orientated agent such as myself, you’ll be in a position to decide whether it’s a deal-breaker or not. Take your time and think it through carefully – it would be a shame to lose your ideal property for the sake of a public footpath that wouldn’t have bothered you in real terms. View other properties so you can make a fair comparison, and consider the bigger picture – namely what long-term impact the right of way will have, and whether this is a viable option for your family.

Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan
Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan

What’s your opinion? Do you think rights of way aren’t a big deal, or would it put you off? Let us know your thoughts.


Serge Cowan

Serge Cowan

Managing Director and Founder

Serge has an extensive marketing background, after a broadcasting career, Serge moved into marketing where he worked for BSkyB & a number of leading Public Relations agencies.
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