Public footpaths and other rights of way mean that members of the public have access to that path, along with wheelchairs, mobility scooters and pushchairs. If there’s a public footpath cutting across your property, you cannot legally prevent people from walking across your land. Public rights of way are often found on landed estates and properties with extensive grounds. They can be a concern for a potential buyer.
Footpaths crossing your property can also affect your mortgage application, especially if you must factor in the costs of maintaining the right of way and covering yourself through insurance. We’ll consider all the issues linked to having a public footpath across your property below.
The Topics Covered in this Article Are Listed Below:
What Is a Public Right of Way?
Ramblers define a public right of way as: “a path that anyone has the legal right to use on foot, and sometimes using other modes of transport”. In terms of the law, a public right of way is part of the King’s highway and protected just like all other roads and highways, including major roads.
There are 3 main types of public right of way: footpaths, bridleways and byways. Footpaths are typically simple paths that are rarely surfaced or lit. You can walk, push a pram, ride a mobility scooter, or walk a dog on a footpath. Bridleways - also known as bridlepaths – are not necessarily physically different from footpaths, the only difference is that you’re also allowed to ride or lead a horse or ride a bicycle. Byways are tracks that are too minor to be designated as roads, but which allow vehicles to use. Byways sometimes have the appearance of green lanes, with 2 tracks for tires and a central grass strip, or else an unsurfaced track.
The law allows members of the public to access and move across a public right of way. They can also spend time on the path if they don’t block it. Dogs are allowed access, provided they’re kept under close control. There’s no legal requirement that dogs are kept on a lead, although local authorities do have the power to require this on designated paths.
England has around 118,000 miles of footpaths, bridleways and byways. There’s also an increase in petitions to restore forgotten footpaths and to upgrade existing pathways to allow for cars.
How Can a Public Footpath Affect My Mortgage Application?
If you have a public right of way crossing your property, your property can legally be accessed by any member of the public, whether walking alone or with a dog, on a bicycle, riding a horse or - in the case of a byway - driving their car. The only requirement is that the person stay on the public right of way and not trespass beyond the path onto your property.
Mortgages and Public Rights of Way
From a mortgage lender’s perspective, a public right of way onto your property means it’s deemed a higher risk application, which may require a higher deposit. Instead of a maximum 95% LTV (loan-to-value), the lender may limit your LTV to 85% - 90%, thereby requiring a deposit of 10% - 15%.
If you’re planning on buying a property with a large amount of land as part of the sale, find out whether there is any public right of way anywhere on the land, whether a public footpath, a bridleway, or a byway. You may also find that part of your property covers open access land, also known as "open country" (a mountain, moor, heath or down) that is registered as common land.
In the worst-case scenario, you may discover that there is a byway intersecting your land. This means you effectively have a public road crossing your property. It will also be challenging if it contains a footpath popular with people walking their dogs or next to a public car park. This could create issues with both litter and insurance claims. On the other hand, a tranquil bridleway may be ideal for those who already own horses and wish to ride them directly from their property.
A good way to check if there are rights of way on your preferred purchase is by studying local authority maps. Be aware that there may be additional footpaths and bridlepaths that have been granted public access since the map was published.
The good news is that properties with public access paths won’t exclude high street mortgage providers; you probably won’t need to go in search of a specialist lender. The specific deals available to you will depend on your personal circumstances and the usual assessment of affordability. As with other properties, if you can pay more than a 10% deposit, you’ll have access to better rates and lenders are more likely to approve your application.
The impact of the public right of way on your mortgage application ultimately comes down to where the footpath is on your property, how intrusive the access is and whether it will have a direct impact on valuation. The lender’s risk calculation is based on whether they can sell the property in the event of repossession.
As part of the mortgage valuation, the valuer will consider whether the public access limits the land use around the property and has a knock-on effect on its value. The report will also consider the costs associated with maintaining the footpath, ensure it remains accessible and assess the security risks. This could include the potential costs of putting up fencing to prevent trespassing, as well as providing adequate signage. Finally, the valuation report will assess the potential for noise pollution associated with the right of way.
From the buyer’s perspective, it makes sense to commission a homebuyer’s survey to better understand the implications of the footpath and its impact on the value of the property, as well as the costs associated with maintaining and securing it from the rest of your property.
How Can a Public Right of Way Affect Property Value?
The general guidance is that the more intrusive and inconvenient the public footpath, the more it will negatively impact the value of the property. This can mean as much as a 25% reduction in value. It's not necessarily bad news for the buyer, as it could increase affordability. However, it will impact on the buyer’s ability to sell the property in the future and potentially limit how much it will appreciate in value over time.
The prospect of buying a property with extensive grounds and a public right of way should not be viewed as a deal-breaker. While the public footpath or bridleway must be disclosed in the mortgage application, it doesn't always mean that the mortgage lender will be more likely to reject your application.
Is it More Difficult to Sell a Property with a Public Footpath?
It's a good idea to think ahead about the resale value of a potential property if it has a public footpath on the grounds. It may mean that the property does not appreciate in value as much as similar properties and could take longer to sell.
Some buyers would also not want to purchase a property with a public footpath simply because they don’t want members of the public crossing their property.
Difficulties in selling a property with a public right of way all boil down to how disruptive the public right of way is for the property owner and whether this inconvenience could increase across time. If there has been a fair amount of disruption, it could be picked up in the mortgage lender’s valuation report for the new buyer and lead to a drop in value. In this case, be prepared to accept a lower offer than you originally wanted.
What Are the Risks Associated with Buying a House with a Public Footpath?
There are several key risks that you should take into consideration when buying a house with a public path. These considerations may also impact your privacy and daily life on the property.
If your land has a public footpath cutting across it, it may limit the use of the land surrounding it. It's illegal to block the public right of way or create obstructions that will prevent the public traversing the path. It's also illegal to put up signs or markers that effectively prevent or discourage members of the public accessing the path. You cannot have hazards in a field that is intersected by a public footpath. This includes certain types of animals, such as bulls. The Health and Safety Executive issues guidance on animals and public rights of way — an important read.
In addition, a public footpath may prevent you from developing your property by adding a conservatory or extending the house in some way, or at least make the planning permission process more complicated and lengthier.
If you’re planning on buying a property with a public access path running across it, you face the risk that there may be trespassing, whether accidental or intentional. Trespassing is a civil offence, which allows the property owner to use reasonable force to ensure the trespasser moves off the property. Unless the trespasser damages your property, they’re not likely to be prosecuted.
In the case where the boundary between the footpath and the rest of the estate is unclear, the landowner is legally able to fence off the private area from the path and construct signposts that provide information to the public on the path’s direction, so long as the signpost doesn't obstruct the path.
Another consideration is the potential for noise disturbance from the path. This could be because the footpath is in a built-up area, or if it's often used by children on their way to school. Members of the public are allowed to walk along the footpath and spend time there. This means that there’s a risk that groups of people could gather on the path and make noise near your house.
The risk of unwanted noise near your house may or may not be a deal-breaker. It may be something you can cope with and potentially reduce by ensuring the windows are double glazed and that there’s foliage acting as a sound barrier to the noise pollution. Or you may find that this won’t be enough and the very thought of members of the public passing by nearby and making noise at any time of day or night too distressing. In this case, you may need to reconsider your options.
What’s the Best Way to Manage a Public Footpath?
If you want to buy a house near a public footpath that strays across your grounds, it's a good idea to embrace the footpath and manage it properly as its primarily your responsibility. Any attempts to mislead or obstruct the footpath can cause issues with your neighbours, ramblers, or the local authority.
Taking care that the path is clearly marked out, signposted and well-maintained so as not to pose a risk to members of the public, is important. You may also wish to provide bins, to prevent littering and make clean-up easier. Make sure that your insurance covers any potential injury that occurs when a member of the public uses the footpath, also known as public liability insurance.
If the footpath comes close to your house, the local council is likely to be more understanding of an application to redirect the path. This may include developing an alternative route, which may mean that you come to an agreement with a neighbouring landowner to have the path cut through their land instead. Redirecting what was an intrusive public right of way can be a worthwhile investment, as it could add to the value of your property by increasing privacy, reducing noise pollution and decreasing the risk of inadvertent trespass.
There may also be a situation where a commonly used path through your property turns out to not be an officially designated footpath or bridleway. This could indicate that there is a potential claim for the path to be designated as a public footpath that is not marked on official maps.
Whether a footpath is officially approved or a historical claim that has not been formalised, the key is for landowners to take command of the situation. Footpaths can be well organised, screened and fenced from the rest of the property with good signage, adequate maintenance and bins. With these basic tips in mind, a public footpath across your land doesn't need to be a major inconvenience and can be well managed, ensuring safety and security for members of the public and for the homeowner.
If you have any questions about mortgages on houses with a public footpath, get in touch with our independent mortgage experts. At John Charcol, we have access to a huge range of mortgage products and lenders, including mortgages for properties with a public footpath. We can help you find the right mortgage for your circumstances. Contact us today on 0330 433 2927 or submit an online enquiry to find out more.
First-Time Buyer Mortgages
If you’re thinking of buying your first home, discover the latest advice and the best first-time buyer mortgages available on the market with John Charcol today.
Applying for a Mortgage
Applying for a mortgage couldn’t be simpler with our easy and simple guide from application to accepting your offer.
How Much Can I Borrow?
This mortgage calculator examines your income and works out how much money a mortgage lender might provide you with
House Buying Mortgage Guide
Are you looking to buy your first home? Or perhaps want to move to a new area? Our step-by-step guide will tell you everything you need to know about buying a house.
Help to Buy Guide
Support from the government-backed Help to Buy initiative is available for first-time buyers and existing homeowners who are finding it difficult to move up the housing ladder.
House Mortgage Deposit
Saving a mortgage deposit for a house is definitely one of the biggest hurdles you face as a buyer. In our guide we explain how deposits work and ways you can save.
Mortgage Deposit Amounts
Learn all about the different mortgage deposit amount options, how they affect your mortgage, how they vary depending on what type of borrower you are & more.
Funding Home Improvements
There are a few ways to finance work on a house: get a home improvement loan, remortgage for home improvements, ask your lender for a further advance & more
On this page you’ll find our detailed mortgage terminology glossary. There’s a lot of jargon out there but we’re here to make it easy.