Firstly, you should contact your solicitor to check your title deeds to ascertain the position as to whether or not you enjoy a registered right of way over this access in favour of your property. This can be done by viewing the folio to see if the title is registered in the Property Registration Authority (Land Registry) or the title deeds if the title is unregistered.
Your solicitor who acted for you in purchasing the property will be best placed to assist you. On the Land Registry the right of way will appear coloured yellow. If the laneway is not registered in the Land Registry, information about it may be available from the Registry of Deeds. Inquiries can also be made of the local authority to confirm it is not a public laneway.
If the right of way is not on the folio or the title deeds the simplest way of formalising the right of way is by entering into an agreement or deed with the owner of the laneway. If an agreement can be reached it can avoid costly disputes or issues down the road. Obviously your neighbour will need to be contacted to see if he is agreeable to executing a deed of right of way in favour of your property.
If you do not wish to raise the matter directly with your neighbour, and if you have used the right of way for at least 20 years without interruption, an application for registration of the right of way may be made directly to the Land Registry. It is important to note if your title is unregistered, ie not a folio, that an application for first registration must be made in respect of your property before the right can be registered.
The Land Registry will serve notice on the owner of the laneway and so your neighbour is likely to become aware of your application to register the right at that stage. If any objection is lodged the Land Registry will issue an order refusing registration which can then be appealed to court. Your solicitor will advise you on same.
There is no question of a cut-off point in 2021 when a claim to a right of way will be lost. All that changes in 2021 is the basis on which the right can be claimed. The legislation provides from December 1, 2021, that 12 years user of the right rather than 20 years must be established.