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Ask Law Educator, Esq. Your Own Question
Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 111533
Experience:  Licensed attorney practicing landlord-tenant, land use and other real estate law and litigation.
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What are my options if the city has put a low pressure water

Customer Question

what are my options if the city has put a low pressure water pipe under the foundation of my home and not in the 5' easement that was allotted them for this purpose/
Submitted: 8 months ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 8 months ago.
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.
At this point, if the pipes are in place, the city can seek to obtain a modified utility easement for those pipes. So legally you do not have a ton of options once those pipes have been placed and are not on the easement. You could seek to get some reasonable compensation for them doing so, but typically it is not going to be a lot of money and if you refuse to modify the easement, they will go to court and will win a utility easement from the court based on the pipes being in place there.
Customer: replied 8 months ago.
When the city asked for additional easement we were not told that city water utility pipes were under the house but we were told they wanted to maintain pipes in the approved easement. The city does not want to modify the easement they want additional easement. What if their pipe cracks or springs a leak and threatens the foundation of my home? The developer/city inspectors plated the utility easement before any homes were built. Why was the home allowed to be built over city water utility pipes and approved by city code enforcement inspectors? Why wasn't this corrected and pipes moved before house was built was it because of added expenses due to their negligence and now the property owner has to pay for their mistakes. I guarantee you if my fence encroached on a city sidewalk I would not be able to go to court and get any additional easement allowing my fence to stay (even if it were there 20 years) I would be told to take it down and fined and a lien would be put against my property. I know because this happened in our city.
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 8 months ago.
Thank you for your reply.
They are liable for the damage caused by their pipes. If you refuse to give the easement though, legally for a utility easement the city can get the court to impose one.
As to why your home was allowed to be built over the pipes, that is a rhetorical question that nobody could answer without looking at the approval of the permits.
The reason you could not seek a prescriptive easement or adverse possession against the city is because there is a statute saying you cannot claim adverse possession or prescriptive easement over government owned land, but that does not work the other way around and the government can in the name of utilities seek such an easement over private property.
Customer: replied 8 months ago.
Thank you for your help but let me get this straight there are no codes or laws that protect property owners from the city illegally putting their utility lines on private property and even under a homeowners home and all they have to do is take an additional easement under my home without any compensation instead of capping the pipe off and rerouting the pipe so as not to continue to create a potential hazard ? This is legal in your opinion?
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 8 months ago.
Thank you for your reply.
No, because there is a right to the utility easement for all utilities, including the city or other utility companies. This is a common law (no statute) easement that is granted based on necessity to provide utility services.
Customer: replied 8 months ago.
Thank you for your help I just want to make sure I understand the gravity of where this can lead before I sign or agree to anything because the city has been less than up front with us. The city already has a 5' utility easement that was designated for this purpose on my property right next to the additional 3 1/2 ' they are trying to take. We were told by a city official there are no pipes in the designated 5' utility easement. If they are able to go to court and take an additional 3 1/2' to give themselves an 8 1/2' utility easement why didn't they just do it? This additional utility easement runs the length of my property and is appx. 450 square feet. The utility easement prepared by the city attorney says I can use the surface part of the easement as long as it does not interfere with the cities use of the easement for the installation, operation, maintenance repair, replacement, relocation, and removal of water lines, sanitary and storm sewers, and other utility lines and facilities. They will be taking appx. 1' into my home so in the future I will not be able to add on or make improvements if it requires any underground work in this area of my home. Also there is a bathroom in this area and the toilet sits about 1' into the home this poses another problem as I know there are already pipes under there. Can they remove or dig up parts of my home if it interferes with this additional utility easement as I have read the city can remove trees and fences and anything else when they need to do work in a purposed utility easement?
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 8 months ago.
Thank you for your reply.
The city wants to avoid the cost of taking this to court if possible. They cannot dig up or knock down any part of your home. If they do need to get to the pipes, any damage they cause in doing so they must repair. You can fight them on this, but the pipes are there already and have been there, so now you are seeking removal and they will argue they acquired the utility easement by prescription and they are only being nice in asking.