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Barrister
Barrister, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 33726
Experience:  15 years real estate, Realtor. Landlord 26 years
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I live in Seattle, WA. There is no easements or CCRs

Customer Question

I live in Seattle, WA. There is no easements or CCRs allowing anyone to use the sewer line on my property. Two neighbors to the left of me on the uphill do not have their own sewer line to the main. This causes an issue like right now, when their sewer line is under my patio and yard. Any repairs would mean tearing up my concrete patio, rock and stone structure, yard (plants/trees) and potentially fence and walkway. I'd like both neighbors to get their own sewer line. How do I legally enforce that? Thanks.
Submitted: 4 months ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Barrister replied 4 months ago.

Hello and welcome! My name is ***** ***** I am a licensed attorney who will try my very best to help with your situation or get you to someone who can. There may be a slight delay in my responses as I research statutes or ordinances and type out an answer or reply, but rest assured, I am working on your question.

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Can you tell me how long the neighbors have been tied into your line?

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thanks

Barrister

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Since the homes have been built is my guess - back in 1906 or thereabouts. Mine is a new construction (2013).
Customer: replied 4 months ago.
I don't think adverse possession applies here does it?
Expert:  Barrister replied 4 months ago.

Yes, actually it does.. Since you are in Washington, the SOL for them obtaining an "easement by use" under the adverse possession laws is only 7 years under Washington Code §7.28.050-.090.

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So they are clearly beyond that time limit to claim adverse possession and an easement across your property.

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However, if they ever had to enter your property to make repairs, then they would have to return the property to its former condition after any work was done. They would have the right to use the route across your property, but also the obligation to not damage your property and return it to its "pre-repair" condition.

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I am very sorry that I don’t have better news, but please understand that I do have an ethical and professional obligation to provide customers with legally correct answers based on my knowledge and experience, even when I know the answer doesn’t make the customer happy...

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thanks

Barrister

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
there is no legal way for me to tell them to get their own line?
Customer: replied 4 months ago.
How do you reinforce 'returning my property to its original condition'?
Expert:  Barrister replied 4 months ago.

So there is no legal way for me to tell them to get their own line?

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Unfortunately, from a legal perspective, no.

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How do you reinforce 'returning my property to its original condition'?

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Lets say you had a nice brick patio and pergola in your backyard that happened to be right over top of the sewer line that needed work. Before they enter your property to work on it, you take lots of pictures of it and then if they don't return it to its pre-work condition when they are done, you sue their pants off in court for whatever your estimates are to return it to its prior condition

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thanks

Barrister

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Hmm...what a hassle. The strange thing is that all the other homes in the area have their own dedicated lines so I assumed this could be done legally.
Customer: replied 4 months ago.
What if I refuse to grant access to my property? We are talking two neighbors, not one. This is a constant pain.
Expert:  Barrister replied 4 months ago.

Yes, these old lines become a problem because the builder, way back when, decided to save a little money and instead of giving each lot its own dedicated line, they "piggybacked" lines off one lateral line that ran out to the main, kind of like a smaller tree branch running out to the main.

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But the developers never disclose this to the buyers as that would reduce the value to the lots and by the time it is discovered dozens of years later, the developer is long gone..

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What if I refuse to grant access to my property?

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They could sue for access, a judge would grant it, and you could be on the hook for their legal fees as well as having them on your property. But they would still have to return your property to its pre work condition..

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And yes, it is a pain in the @$$ because if it is the old tera cotta clay pipes, they eventually always break and collapse requiring digging up and repair or just running a new line.

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The upside is that when looking at costs, it might be cheaper for them to just dig out a new line and tap into the main rather than repairing and then having to pay to return your property to its prior condition.

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I have done a little rehab and development in my time and have run into this a few times...

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thanks

Barrister

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
This sucks big time. And yes it's one of those old clay pipes. Anyway, thank you.
Expert:  Barrister replied 4 months ago.

Agreed. I am sorry that the news isn't better.

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thanks

Barrister

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