Living “Private”

When we bought this place back in 2015 we really didn’t understand what the term “private road” meant.

Now we do.

A private road means responsibility of maintaining all aspects of the road falls upon the residents and/or owners of the land traversed and/or access by the road, or in this case roads as there are technically three.

In California that means Civil Code Div 2, Part 2, Title 3, Chapter 2. Specifically Code 845, which you can read all of and more here. The most pertinent bit is 845 though, so here it is for your reading pleasure.

DIVISION 2. PROPERTY [654 - 1422]  ( Heading of Division 2 amended by Stats. 1988, Ch. 160, Sec. 13. )
PART 2. REAL OR IMMOVABLE PROPERTY [[755.] - 945.5]  ( Part 2 enacted 1872. )
TITLE 3. RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS OF OWNERS [818 - 855]  ( Title 3 enacted 1872. )

CHAPTER 2. Obligations of Owners [840 - 848]  ( Chapter 2 enacted 1872. )

(a) The owner of any easement in the nature of a private right-of-way, or of any land to which any such easement is attached, shall maintain it in repair.
(b) If the easement is owned by more than one person, or is attached to parcels of land under different ownership, the cost of maintaining it in repair shall be shared by each owner of the easement or the owners of the parcels of land, as the case may be, pursuant to the terms of any agreement entered into by the parties for that purpose. In the absence of an agreement, the cost shall be shared proportionately to the use made of the easement by each owner.
(c) If any owner refuses to perform, or fails after demand in writing to pay the owner’s proportion of the cost, an action to recover that owner’s share of the cost, or for specific performance or contribution, may be brought by the other owners, either jointly or severally. The action may be brought before, during, or after performance of the maintenance work, as follows:
(1) The action may be brought in small claims court if the amount claimed to be due as the owner’s proportion of the cost does not exceed the jurisdictional limit of the small claims court. A small claims judgment shall not affect apportionment of any future costs that are not requested in the small claims action.
(2) Except as provided in paragraph (1), the action shall be filed in superior court and, notwithstanding Section 1141.13 of the Code of Civil Procedure, the action shall be subject to judicial arbitration pursuant to Chapter 2.5 of Title 3 of Part 3 (commencing with Section 1141.10) of the Code of Civil Procedure. A superior court judgment shall not affect apportionment of any future costs that are not requested in the action, unless otherwise provided in the judgment.
(3) In the absence of an agreement addressing the maintenance of the easement, any action for specific performance or contribution shall be brought in a court in the county in which the easement is located.
(4) Nothing in this section precludes the use of any available alternative dispute resolution program to resolve actions regarding the maintenance of easements in the small claims court or the superior court.
(d) In the event that snow removal is not required under subdivision (a), or under any independent contractual or statutory duty, an agreement entered into pursuant to subdivision (b) to maintain the easement in repair shall be construed to include snow removal within the maintenance obligations of the agreement if all of the following exist:
(1) Snow removal is not expressly precluded by the terms of the agreement.
(2) Snow removal is necessary to provide access to the properties served by the easement.
(3) Snow removal is approved in advance by the property owners or their elected representatives in the same manner as provided by the agreement for repairs to the easement.
(e) This section does not apply to rights-of-way held or used by railroad common carriers subject to the jurisdiction of the Public Utilities Commission.
(Amended by Stats. 2012, Ch. 244, Sec. 1. (AB 1927) Effective January 1, 2013.)

The quick summary of the above is, if you use the road to access your parcel, you need to help keep it in good repair.

So roughly a year after we moved in, everyone up here got a letter in their mailbox explaining since the last great repaving project back in 1999, not much in the way of repairs or maintenance had been done. The old road association had fallen into disuse as over half the members had died or moved away. I made contact with the resident who wrote the letter and agreed to help organize and restart some form of organization or committee.

I also ended up with a couple boxes of documents. So much ephemera. I scanned in a few bits and pieces (like the association bylaws,) shredded about half of it (so many duplicates,) and managed to fit the rest into a single box that now takes up a shelf in the downstairs closet of the studio building.

Then in early 2018 I reserved a space at the local Moose Lodge down the mountain and about a ten residents showed up. From that we got a few volunteers who were willing to sit down and talk about what needed done: things like money, distances, drafting lists of what needed done and gathering costs estimates, etc.

We had a few meetings to discuss stuff and then a spanner flew into the fray. I’ll get to more about that spanner later, but said spanner had one very happy result which I will also get to, but for now suffice to say much work on my part has been done. You can peruse some of the craziness on yet another website. One I created just for our roads, as there are actually three of them involved in this lovely private bruhahahah. It’s very boring unless you live here and care, but it’s also been where quite a bit of my energy has been directed over the last few years.

Next post….the happy result!

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