What Is Ingress?
, also known as the rights of ingress, is a legal right to enter a real estate property. Ingress gives a property owner who might have no public access route to their property, a designated way in, like a shared driveway or private road. Ingress is a type of easement — which is a right to use someone else's property.
An ingress is generally attached to the property deed
and transfers upon sale, so the rights do not need to be renegotiated. The right of ingress applies whether the property is owner-occupied or rented.
Conversely, egress applies to the right to exit a property. Egress rights are usually tied to ingress rights.
When Real Estate Ingress Is Needed
Ingress agreement typically arise due to landlocked properties with no public access point. This happens when a larger piece of land is subdivided into smaller lots. Properties in the middle might be landlocked by neighboring properties, requiring ingress to give the owners access.
For example, Steve has a piece of property that is landlocked on all sides. He has no access to his land via a public road or driveway — to enter, he must cross a neighbor’s property. The neighbor and Jim have an ingress agreement that allows Jim to use their driveway. Ingress isn’t limited to landlocked properties, though: If a property's public access is limited during adverse weather, such as severe flooding or snow, then ingress might be needed.
Ingress may apply to land resources as well. For example, if there is a public water source on the land that neighbors have a legal right to access, then ingress would be required, usually in the form of a utility easement.
Ingress vs. Easement
So what is an easement? Easement rights are when one property owner lets another use their property. In the case of an ingress, the other person’s property is used to enter your property. Also known as an access easement, an ingress and egress easement agreement allows a property owner to cross over the adjacent property to access their own property. This type of right-of-way could mean using another person’s driveway to access your own.
Ingress vs. Encroachment
An encroachment is when a property owner builds on or uses someone else’s land, either accidentally or intentionally. Of course, property owners have the right to improve their own land, but they can’t interfere with someone else’s land while doing so. If a property owner is expanding their home, putting in a garden, building a shed, installing a fence, or doing any other improvements and they intrude another person’s property, that’s encroachment.
Encroachment can also apply to trees and plants — for example, if a hedge or tree grows over the property line onto a neighbor's property.
Encroachment vs. Encumbrance
An encroachment is a type of encumbrance. An encumbrance is any burden or impediment that reduces the use of the land or its value — most commonly, liens. Ingress isn’t considered an encroachment, because an agreement is put into place before any trespassing occurs. However, an easement that reduces the property’s value or hinders its use might be an encumbrance.
How to Get an Ingress Agreement
An ingress agreement is established between property owners, and might include compensation for use of the property. Landowners allowing access may also want to limit certain aspects, such as the size of vehicles allowed to use their driveway. In these cases, a land use agreement can also be used. These contracts spell out exactly what is and is not allowed.
A handshake agreement might suffice, but many landowners will want the agreement recorded as part of the deed, making it transferable upon sale. Having the agreement in the deed makes the property more marketable.
Just like any easement, an ingress agreement and any associated land use agreements should be filed with the county clerk and signed by all affected property owners. The deed restriction and agreement should also be notarized.
Still, disputes may arise. A landowner could block access or the use of their land if the vehicles are too noisy or causing the driveway to deteriorate. In this case, a court may issue an injunction to stop the blockage.
How to Do Your Due Diligence
A landlocked parcel is somewhat useless without proper ingress. When purchasing a property, the onus is on the buyer to do the due diligence necessary to ensure an ingress agreement is in place. If no ingress is attached to the deed, the seller’s ingress rights will need to be verified and conveyed to the buyer, because a jurisdiction or government may not grant automatic easements to access the property — make sure to check with an attorney familiar with your local real estate law.
Most lenders will require that either an ingress be requested and proof that one is in place before lending against the property.