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Real Estate Matters: Easement complicates sewer repair

Published 1:00 am, Sunday, February 16, 2014
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Q. I own about 1 acre within the city limits on top of a hill. On my recorded deed is an easement within my property lines dedicated to an above-ground sewer line. The sewer is unique to my property. This line extends through adjoining properties below my parcel to the city's sewer system.

I recently had a tree root break this line on my property, and I did the needed repairs. But this raised a question: What if trees or other hazards cause a break on the adjoining property below mine? What if the sewer backs up onto my property? Will the property owners there be responsible for the repairs?

I have no access nor have ever seen where the sewer line exits my property but do know there are plenty of large trees in its path.

A. When it comes to easements, you have to look to the document that created the easement to see what your and your neighbors' responsibilities are relating to the sewer line. You seem to need the easement on your neighbors' properties to allow the flow of sewage from your property to the main city sewer line.

If this is the case, you may bear the responsi-bility for the repair and replacement of the entire sewer line from your property to the city sewer line unless your neighbors cause damage to the line.

Again, we would think that the document that created the easement would have provisions regarding your responsibilities and rights and also would indicate who has repair obligations and under what circumstances.

If you don't have the document, you might have to go to your local recorder of deeds office or the office in your county or city where documents are filed, recorded or registered to obtain a copy. Make sure you take your parcel identification number or tax identification number with you. Frequently, you will need this number to look up any information on your property.

In some cases, you may need the legal description for your home. That legal description is much more detailed than your address. The legal description may give exact measurements on the boundaries for your property, and certain governmental offices may need some of that information. Your property title and deed should have all this information. Take it with you and see if you can obtain a copy of the easement.

If you are in a location that now has all property documents online, you may be able to download a copy of the easement through the Web.

Once you have the document, read it over and see if you can determine your rights, duties and responsibilities. If the document has too much legal jargon for you to decipher the relevant information, you may have to hire a real estate attorney to go through it with you.

Unfortunately, in some cases, these easement rights also could have been set up with little concern for details relating to the duties, responsibilities and rights of the easement holder and the land burdened by the easement.

When you find yourself holding a document that grants your property the easement with a one-line sentence, you will need to talk to an attorney who knows a considerable amount about easement laws in your state to get more information.

To ask a question, contact Ilyce Glink or Samuel Tamkin at www.thinkglink.com or call Glink's radio show at 800-972-8255 from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays.