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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 118200
Experience:  Licensed attorney practicing landlord-tenant, land use and other real estate law and litigation.
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I am a 72 year old man paying spousal support and trying to

Customer Question

I am a 72 year old man paying spousal support and trying to find out if my problem is resolvable. In 1979 I purchased a house at the end of a street. The house was built in 1974. Seven years ago I began to have sewer plugging problems. I notice my neighbors were calling a sewer service to snake and sent a camera into their sewer line. I began having trouble and could not afford the service so I snaked it myself and continued to snake it whenever. I called the city sewer maintenance crew. They said it's not their problem but mine. Myself and two neighbors went to a city management meeting to find out what the deal. They said it's our problem and we must take care of it ourselves. Yet we said we pay full water and sewer fees. They said you are using our sewer and there is no problem with their sewer. I left confused with the understand of how could they have made the sewer our problem. My house is about 350 feet away from my house crossing two and possible three front yards before it gets to the sewer. I continue to snake my own sewer as needed. I also dump chemicals into the line when recommended. About two years ago my neighbor gave me a copy of a letter written by a City Zoning Administrator addressing a Realtor and a City employee to build my house and another two doors away. In the memo it said
"because of your own doing , having hooked to a private sewer belonging to the "City Employee (not using his name in this memo)", yourself and any future owners of the property realize that the maintenance and up-keep, now and in the future."
Since knowing this information I started looking for legal service. I started by calling and meeting with "Sixty Plus ElderLaw" offered by Cooley Law School. They told me the city would claim immunity and could not help me. I began calling local and government officials such as State Representative, State Senator, Member of Congress, Attorney General, and U. S. Congressman in Washington. None of these people said they can help me and said to call legal referral but it would not be free. I had to find work. My health is not great. I am washing buses at minimum wage to save for an attorney. I call the lansing state journal and contacted a columnist. I worked with him while was trying to find out what was going on. After a few months he was not getting anywhere. I told him I was going to call a TV station to see what they could do. The columnist asked for two weeks to have a face to face meeting with the city manage team to find out how many more people in this city had this problem. Myself and two neighbors know of anther person in our city that have this same problem The columnist would not answer my voice mails or emails. I did not call the paper since I felt I may get his job in trouble. Shortly after I got my snake stuck and could not get it out. I called the sewer maintenance service. They said they could not help me but could dig up the line and repair it but they need to know where it was located. I called the city sewer service. They came to my house. I explained I needed to know where my sewer line was located plus I told him I was trying to find legal service to help me out of this dilemma. I said I didn't want to sue anyone. I just want to have what I paid for per the sales add I have that showed I had a City Sewer. This was in February of this year. I never heard from him or anyone again. Recently I received an offer from AARP to get sewer maintenance service. Isn't that od?
I had a Realtor come out to appraise my house for purposes of the possibility to have to go to a nursing home or wherever. He told me now that I know I have a private sewer I would have to tell potential owners about the sewer that is failing. He said the chances of me selling this home would slim to none.
I have collected many papers with this whole dilmma. Whay can I do to get the whole story to you.
Edward R. Chope *****
St. Johns, MI 48879 (###) ###-####***@******.***
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year 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.

I am afraid that you have been told correctly, if the sewer line you are connected to is private, your city is not liable. You have to find out who the owner is of the line to seek to hold them liable for any repairs. Other than pursuing the actual owner of the line, you are going to have to make the repairs and also you will have to make a mandatory disclosure to any potential buyer of your house of the situation. If you cannot afford to make repairs and cannot find the specific owner of the private line to sue them for repairs, you need to look around at some of the local community groups that do help seniors in your position on a fixed income. You also need to consider going to the local senior center and legal aid about low cost legal representation or free legal representation.

You also can call your local TV stations, most of them have a reporter who investigates consumer issues and may be able to assist you in this matter as well.

I am afraid those really are your limited options in this case because of the time that has gone on from the time you purchased the home until now.