Easement - how hard to get one?

petchiaAugust 4, 2008

I'm in a situation where my property does not have connectivity to the local sewer system. Unfortunately it is too far away on my street to connect to. This leaves me with having to have a septic system which I'm trying to avoid.

One other option I have is to get an utility easement from the people that own the property behind me and pump my wastewater up to the sewer system on the street there house is on.

It's kind of a weird situation. Basically, most everywhere around me is on sewer but there are some areas that sewer was never setup at. My lot is only 3/4 acre and I don't want to "waste" valuable space installing a septic system. Also septic could limit the size of home I build because our regulations require a certain size septic system based on # of bedrooms.

Sorry to be so long winded. My question is about pursuing an easement from the neighbors behind me. Has anyone done this? Is it hard or next to impossible to get done? What is the process for attempting this? Hire a real estate attorney that contacts those neighbors and "negotiates" it?



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It is all a matter of whether you are willing to pay the amount they demand, assuming they are even willing to do it. Depending on how it will run through their property (edge, middle, etc.) may make a big difference in whether they are willing to do it. Personally, I would never agree to it.

Do you know the neighbor? I would approach them in person and then have an attorney draw it up if they show a willingness.

3/4 of an acre is usually plenty of land for a 3-4 bedroom septic. We have 1 acre of cleared land (3.75 acres total) and have a 4 bedroom septic system that is pretty large because our soil is horrible, and we have plenty of space. The tank and leach field just look like lawn.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2008 at 4:19PM
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Have you checked with the entity that provides the sewer & water? I would think that if you are in their "area" you are in their area. If not, you're not. It seems strange that you would have a choice but I suppose the line ends somewhere.

At any rate, the utility might have some useful information. You might not even have to do anything. The utility is the one that will be granted the easement, not you. Where I live, utilities get easements whenever and wherever they want them. Landowners don't have much of a choice. I think your first step should be a call to the utility to find out how much money it costs to hook up and then how they handle the easement thing. Of course, I could be wrong....

good luck!

    Bookmark   August 4, 2008 at 4:32PM
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I had the exact same issue...had to finally cough up $500 to get the neighbor to agree to let let the line cross the edge of his property. If it had to go across a larger piece, I doubt he'd have agreed.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2008 at 4:37PM
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$500? You stole that easement.

I'll echo what sue36 said. 3/4 of an acre should be plenty, unless your neighbors have sited wells in such a manner as to preclude a septic on your property. Stranger things have happened.

I've had septic on a lot as little as 1/4 acre. No problems.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2008 at 8:37PM
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if you have to pump up, then why not pump to the nearest location?

as others said, check with the sewer utility. that is usually the city in my area, so they can get it easily. heck, they probably already HAVE it.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2008 at 9:58PM
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We live in a rural area and have a septic system. To connect into the sewer, we have to annex ourselves into the city since the city supplies the water and waste treatment.
It would raise our property taxes by 40% a year so we have no desire to do it.
Check with a real estate attorney. Are you already in city limits? What costs are involved? You may have to get all your neighbors who have land that connect you to the sewer to agree to the easement.
If you live in a state that has property taxes, see if they increase. Also, you may have to pay a waste treatment fee on the water you use. It may add a lot to your monthly water bill.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2008 at 11:33PM
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You also might want to rethink pumping your sewage. Somebody will have to maintain that pump. Personally, I'd rather have a septic system that relies on gravity than a sewer connection that has to be pumped.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 7:04AM
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Thanks everyone for the input! I love this forum!

The situation where I live is STRANGE! I'm inside the city limits, but the county manages the water/sewer. I have a regular water connection (and so do all the neighbors). But for whatever reason they never ran the sewer down the section of road I live on. If you go further down the road, there is sewer. The county says I am too far away (1500 feet) to connect.

More details:

+ Unfortunately I don't know the neighbors behind me (yet)
+ No wells near me (that I know of)
+ Lot is mostly clear in the front half and mostly trees in the back so I have somewhat limited space for placing a septic tank. I do plan to remove some trees though to make more room for everything I want.
+ Planning for 4 - 5 bedrooms.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 10:54AM
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I, for one, am very curious about how this is going to play out. Will you have to pay to run the sewer 1500 feet? (or are you saying it's less if you go through the backyard?) Still, my guess is that you'd have to pay for the hook up and it can't be cheap. Anyway, please keep us posted. I want to know how it turns out with the neighbors and the utility. I concur with your reluctance to give up yard space for a septic system.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 11:17AM
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janbanks: I believe the county would make me pay to run the sewer the 1500 feet (down my street to the closest connection point). The main sewer guy for the county basically told me I can't connect to the sewer because it would be too cost prohibitive for a single family home. I have no idea on how much "cost prohibitive" is, but my guess is somewhere well into several thousand dollars (if not hundreds of thousands). Connecting to sewer on the next street over would require me to do a sewer line across my backyard and through the yard of the people behind me. Thus the need for an easement.

The ironic thing is that the county is pretty against septic tanks and wants everyone to connect to sewer, however they don't even make the sewer available to me.

Another issue is that in my county they expect you to have a 1 acre lot or more if you have septic. I'm grandfathered in I guess because I have 3/4 acre lot.

I wonder if there is anyway to get my neighbors together and petition for the county to run sewer down our section of the street. My guess is they won't do it because it's expensive and state and local governments are dealing with budget issues.

I wish I had known this (or better yet) known to look into this before I bought the lot. Septic isn't the end of the world, but I would much rather not have to do it. It affects the size of the house I can build and the placement of landscaping on my lot and may affect whether I can have a pool. I imagine resale might be an issue too.

Below is an image of a lot map showing the situation.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 2:39PM
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Thanks for the graphic. I would be very ticked off. From the map it looks like the land has been platted and is actually a pretty big development, worthy of service. Well, every place works differently. I hope it works out the way you are hoping. Maybe your neighbors will take pity on you... maybe you need to remind them that it would suck to be down wind from your septic when it fails...during their daughter's outdoor wedding....

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 3:40PM
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But don't hold it against the neighbors if they don't give you an easement. That easement will affect what they can do with that part of their lot--landscaping, fences, building, etc. It's one thing to buy a lot with an easement like that in place, and another thing to be asked to part with an interest in your land after you own it.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 4:39PM
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If I'm understand the situation, the 'easement' option requires a pump, and that's just _not_ something I'd get into.

They can work flawlessly for a long time, but not forever.

Frankly, if I were your neighbor, I'd be very reluctuant to allow you an easement. Not only will it potentially interfere with their use of their own property, but if anything goes wrong, they'll have a backhoe digging up their lawn.

I'd to the sanitation board for a permit for the septic. Compared to a pump system [which will necessitate a tank of some kind] and easment [with attendent legal fees], I think it will be cheaper and less stressful for all concerned.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 5:02PM
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I am on city water. I am in the county and not in the city and other than the placement of our septic leach field, I am happy with our septic system.

When we applied for our septic permit, we met on the site with DHEC and explained exactly where we wanted to place the tank and leach field and told him we wanted to have 5 bedrooms.
He did perk tests on different areas and drew up plans that would work without affecting placement of pool, etc.

My builder hired a septic company he had never used before and they took it upon themselves to change everything to directly behind our house.

That I hate- but by the time I found out, DHEC had approved the change and it was a done deal. I was never contacted.

Over all, I know having a septic tank does not affect resale in my area. Other than the placement, I have no problem having a septic tank over sewer.

We are on acreage and do a lot of gardening and I love not having a waste treatment fee tacked on our bill.

Can you schedule a meeting at the lot with you and the person in charge of septic permits and ask him/her what your options are on placement. Maybe it can be placed in an area that would not affect a future pool. If you then find out you only can put it in the area where you would like a future pool and not enough "perk" or whatever they determine for 5 bedrooms -then you look into the sewer route.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 6:06PM
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Your neighbor, if he gives you an easement, will devalue his property. Easements always make a piece of property less desireable, which is reflected in its market value (but not for taxes, funny that). About the only kind of easement that doesn't hurt is a utility easement for the lines serving the property itself, and the typical easement down the front (or back) for neighborhood power.

When he goes to sell, he will have to disclose that you have a sewer easement running across his property. If I were your neighbor, I would ask an arm and a leg for that easement, if I would consent to it at all.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 9:39PM
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A lot of septic systems have pumps because their drain fields are higher than the tank--our last house had this as does our present house. Our septic tank pump system has an alarm so you know when the pump stops working--if the tank fills to a certain level then the pump must not be working so the alarm goes off and you can fix it before the sepatic tank backs up into your house--this has happened once in the 22 years that we have lived with lift pump systems. I don't know how an alarm would work if you are pumping directly to a sewer line. If you can't include an alarm to let you know when the pump isn't working, I would stick with the septic system because you don't want sewage to back up in your basement. But if you can have an alarm, then I'd go for it if the neighbor will sell you an easement. But as I said in a previous post, don't hold it against you neighbor if they won't give you an easement.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2008 at 9:43AM
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Alarms can fail, too.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2008 at 11:25AM
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Thanks again to everyone for their continued insight. It sounds like the easement is a long shot (which I sort of figured) and even if I could get it, pumping the sewage up to another street could bring its own set of issues.

I guess I've just been "scared" of septic because I'm worried about it impeding what I want to do with my lot. There is already a house on the lot that will be torn down and it has an existing septic system. That septic system won't be large enough for the new house so I presume I will need a new one. The county requires that you use virgin soil for new septic systems. That means I will be using more and more of my lot for septic.

I'm hoping to have room for a 5000 sqft or so home and a small pool. I'm probably going to have to remove alot of the trees to make room for everything.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2008 at 1:02PM
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Gravity septic systems can fail too and cause sewage to back up into the house. Also, at least where I live, you not only need the land for your actual drain field but you need to have an area tested and reserved for a replacement drain field in case the original drain field fails. Also, I think from an environmental viewpoint that it is better to be connected to a municipal sewer system than to have your own septic system. If nothing else, I'd try to get the easement even if you intend to go with a septic system so that you will have the ability to connect to the municipal sewer system so in the future if you need to. Here are some of things that can go wrong with a gravity septic system:
If the partially treated sewage effluent from the septic tank cannot soak into the soil surrounding the leaching system, sewage may back up in the system and overflow into the house or puddle on the surface of the ground. There are several possible causes of this problem.


A leaching system placed in unsuitable soil, or a system too small for the house it serves or not properly constructed may lead to early failure. In most cases it will be necessary to install a new system to correct the condition.


If sludge from the septic tank is allowed to escape into the leaching system, the leaching system / soil interface will quickly become clogged and form a barrier to further penetration by effluent This condition can be caused by: broken baffles which allow the sludge to flow out of the tank, or failure to pump the septic tank out on a regular basis (2-5 years for a tank that meets the code) causing sludge buildup in the tank to the point where it washes over the baffles.


During wet seasons the groundwater table can rise into the leaching system area and sewage may be forced upward to the ground surface. This problem is usually the result of improper installation and can be corrected by relocating or raising the leaching area at least eighteen inches above the maximum high water-table. Another possible solution is to install ground water drains around the leaching area to lower the groundwater table if slope and soil conditions warrant.


The roots of trees and bushes planted too close to the leaching area can sometimes enter and block the pipes of the system. removal of such plants is usually required.


Trucks or heavy equipment passing over the tank or leaching system area can so damage connections, crush pipe and or compact the soil as to render the entire system inoperable. Being aware of the location of all elements of the system and directing traffic around them can prevent such damage.

We are having the high ground water problem with our 2-1/2 year old septic drain field. Our land perked just fine and the septic system was installed up to code, but we had an unusually large amount of snow last winter and then an unusually large amount of rain this spring and the ground water tables are higher than anyone can ever remember them being. We've made it though this without any problems and the water table is going down, but it is a worry. We would connect to a municipal sewer system in a heart beat if we could.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2008 at 2:15PM
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Without mentioning AT ALL the person from whom you might need to seek an easement, or that you desire an easement at all, try to determine how the lots facing the "Red Line" on your drawing get or propose to get sewage disposal. Looks as if you may not be the only one with this problem. But for discussing an easement, be sure that your first mention of it to any person is directly to the property owner. Most of us take umbrage at our business being discussed with others first.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2008 at 4:03PM
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