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When Railroad Crossings Become a Real Estate Problem

Tucker’s Tips for Realtors and Lenders: Selling or Buying Land With A Railroad Crossing On It

The Good News: Most railroad crossings in Virginia are over a state road and there are no issues with the legal ability to cross the railroad tracks (Just remember to obey the railroad signals and to look carefully both ways before crossing).

The Problem: When the railroad crossing is not on a state road. There are many instances in our localities where the railroad crossing is over a private road and/or right of way. For example, the railroad track has been there for years with a house on the other side of the tracks. The only access to the house for the last forty years is over the railroad crossing.

The Question: Will the title insurance company insure the crossing? Unfortunately, without a recorded right of way or a license from the railroad, the title insurance underwriter will probably not insure access to the property. Even though the prior owners of the property have driven over the railroad tracks for years, the property may be unmarketable due to lack of access.

Railroads do not want to grant a right of way or license over their tracks because of liability issues. They do not mind you crossing the tracks; they just do not want to give you the legal right to cross. Without a legal right to cross, the title insurance company will not insure access to the property.

Be Smart: There are solutions to these problems; however, they take time to resolve. Accordingly, if someone wants to sell a property located on the other side of a private railroad crossing, the situation needs to be researched as soon as possible. Be sure to immediately request a title search, or review the prior title policy, in order to determine the extent of the problem. Consult a real estate attorney for advice on how to attempt to solve this problem.

Bill Tucker

Tucker Griffin Barnes P.C.

(434-973-7474: Charlottesville)

(434-589-3636: Lake Monticello)

(540-217-5470: Harrisonburg)

(540-688-3183: Staunton)

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