The word “egress” is a synonym of the word “exit”. It means the act of leaving or going out or a location where one can leave or go out. In real estate and property law, “egress” refers to a person’s right to exit from a parcel of property. This is usually partnered with other terms such as “ingress,” the right to enter property, and “regress,” the right to return to property. 

Under  federal, state, and local laws, owners, lessees, and tenants generally have the right to ingress and egress for a property in which they hold a legal right of occupancy. These are connected with other concepts, such as safety and zoning laws, as well as the general right of a landowner to make use of their real property. 

Sometimes, however, an owner’s right to ingress and egress depends on an easement in a neighboring property. An easement is a right to use the property owned by another for a limited purpose. Sometimes an owner’s right to ingress and egress depends on having an easement for that purpose that crosses the land owned by another person. Problems can arise if the easement expires or if a new owner decides not to respect the easement in the event of a dispute.

When Does Ingress and Egress Become an Issue?

Ingress and egress often become issues when access is blocked for a homeowner or other person who has a right to occupy a property. For example, an owner might have to use a driveway that crosses the property of another person to get to a main road. The other person might decide to block the driveway for whatever reason. Perhaps the owner of the neighboring property has become unhappy with some use that the owner of the easement is making of it. 

Sometimes landlocked parcels of real property are sold without means of ingress and egress. The buyer would then need to arrange to purchase an easement across a neighboring owner’s land for the purpose of ingress and egress. Usually it is obvious that an owner will have ingress and egress from a piece of real property. But sometimes, often in rural settings, property without ingress and egress will be sold. 

An unwary person might purchase a piece of property that is landlocked and does not have ingress and egress from the nearest public highway. In these situations, the buyer must make arrangements to obtain ingress and egress across a neighboring property. Of course, it is best to make sure that one has ingress and egress before buying property. Or, a buyer of a landlocked parcel should make arrangements to purchase an easement for ingress and egress at the time of buying the landlocked parcel. However, sometimes an unwary buyer might purchase a landlocked parcel that lacks ingress and egress.

Ingress and egress can also become a major issue when it comes to accessing natural resources or other materials that are found on or near the property. For instance, if a plot of land has natural access to a stream or river, blocking that access could well make the home less valuable. This can be a factor during a home purchase or sale transaction.

Lastly, ingress and egress issues can arise out of boundary disputes. For instance, if one neighbor’s fence is encroaching on the other neighbor’s property, it might lead to a legal dispute over ingress and egress.

Regress can become an issue in cases where a person loses title or is evicted from the land. In such cases, they may lose the right to regress, i.e. to return to the land, although they have a legitimate need for it for some reason..

What If I Have a Property Dispute over Egress Rights?

In the event of a contest over ingress and egress rights, a lawsuit may be necessary to resolve the dispute. However, before turning to the courts for a solution, an owner or other legal occupant of land would want to approach a neighboring landowner and try to negotiate a settlement of a dispute. This might involve negotiating the purchase of an easement. Of course, an easement in some other person’s land is something for which an owner who needs ingress and egress would have to pay.

A person who is planning to buy a landlocked parcel might plan for ingress and egress rights to be part of the deed. This could be done if the person is buying the property from a neighbor over whose property the person would need ingress and egress to their landlocked parcel. This could be advantageous if the buyer wants to sell the property later. Future buyers will be more at ease if the right to ingress and egress across neighboring property is part of the title in the deed itself. 

Sometimes a property owner might negotiate a land use agreement to resolve an ingress/egress problem. A land use agreement is a contract that spells out specific duties and responsibilities between two people with interests in property. Land use agreements should be recorded in the county in which the property is located, just as an easement is recorded. 

A land use agreement gives the parties great flexibility in determining just how much access will be granted from one owner to the other. A land use agreement can limit the weight of trucks that can cross the neighboring property, for example, or whatever other conditions the two sides agree to. A land use agreement might also contain provisions regarding the fact that the limited-access property owner must pay for the upkeep of any roads that they will use.

In some cases, if relief is sought in a court of law, the court might order an injunction. This might allow the property owner rights to have a path opened up for access to their property. Or, the court might order a structure to be removed, demolished, or altered so that it is no longer blocking access. 

In some cases, an easement by necessity may be granted. This is where the court allows the property owner to cross another person’s property in order to enter and leave their own property, possibly via a sidewalk or other type of pathway that crosses a neighbor’s land.

Lastly, in the event that an injunction is not possible or if compliance with an injunction would be too costly for the owner who must give access across their land, the court might issue an award of money damages to compensate the property owner for losses caused by the lack of ingress and egress. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with an Egress Issue?

Clearly having access to land that you own is very important, and it can affect many other property rights as well. Obviously, it can also affect the value of a property. You may wish to hire a qualified real estate lawyer in your area if you have any questions or concerns regarding ingress or egress to your property. 

Your attorney can review the facts of your situation and provide you with legal advice regarding possible solutions. An experienced real estate lawyer could help in negotiating an easement or land use agreement. If you must go to court to seek a solution, an experienced real estate lawyer can represent you. You have the best chance of getting the most favorable outcome if you have an experienced real estate lawyer representing your interests.