Should we allow an easement?

terryinmdMay 6, 2009

Got a phone call today from the electrical co-op for our vacation property. They wanted to know if we would agree to an easement on our property so that they can run electricity to the new house being built on the adjacent property.

As described to me, the line would zig-zag along the property line, with some trees having limbs removed to allow their machine to get through and dig. If they did it this way, they would have to cut down fewer trees. Our lot is partially cleared already. If they put the line totally on the neighbors, they will have to cut a lot of trees on that property, which will cost the co-op more.

The caller stated that this woud be of benefit to us if we ever decided to add on to our place. I'm not sure how. I am concerned that an easement might affect future sale value. We have no plans to sell, but might need to go to a retirement community at some point.

As it happens, we are going to the house this weekend, and will be able to see the proposed path of the trench, and will contact the co-op afterwards, to give permission, ask further questions, or refuse. I did ask what would happen if we refused, and was told the co-op "would just have to find some other way to get electricity to them". that doesn't sound like there would be adverse consequences for us.

Any suggestions for questions we should ask, things we should consider?

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mariend

What ever you do get EVERYTHING in writing. Where we lived before, the telephone company wanted to put in a line thru our property as we had 5 acres of mountain property, but where they wanted it to go would have been too close to the house, so my husband suggested some other places and why--and they did it. But then he worked for the county and was very knowledgeable. They also had to maintain part of the private roads etc. You mentioned Ziz-zag--is that the way the property line goes? How close to the house? roads for maintenance? If not sure you might talk to the supervisor of the electric company to make sure you understand the when's where's and why's. Communication and writing is very important. Accept no verbal commitments. Also we got it recorded. You might talk to your building dept--our phone company had to get permits also.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 6:09PM
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linda117117

There is absolutely no benefit for you to do this and actually it could hurt you in the resale market. Lots of people don't want to buy homes that have easements on them, even simply utility easements. If they wanted to compensate you for this, that would be a different story, but it sounds as if they are simply asking because it will save them money. What does it do for you?

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 6:44PM
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berniek

"Lots of people don't want to buy homes that have easements on them, even simply utility easements."

If you have water, sewer, telephone, cable or electric lines to your property, you have an easement, which you, or the previous owner authorized, when you purchased the property.
All easements after that are negotiable to some degree. Depending on who requests the easement and who all it benefits, sometimes owners might not have a choice to grant easements, as in eminent domain cases.
Depending on the type of easement, you can be compensated, based on the property values around you.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 9:02PM
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kudzu9

I'd ask what compensation they would provide for you to agree to this. I have a sewer easement through part of my property and it caused a problem when I was wanting to build some outdoor structures (greenhouse and grape arbor) because there aren't supposed to be any retaining walls or structures on a 20' swath through my yard. Now maybe with an electrical easement, there would be no issues. But I'd make them confirm that in writing. Also, having more wires crossing overhead on your property would, arguably, damage your property value, so I would not be shy about asking for money if you're willing to agree to this.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 11:22PM
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deniseandspike

We had a contract on a property before that we were going to purchase but after we got the title papers in and saw all the easements going across the property, we declined. This was a 5 acre property and the back half was where we wanted to build a shop. The owners had given an easement for a gas pipeline to go thru and rendered the whole back half of the property useless.

If you agree to this, make sure it isn't located where a future owner would want to build something.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 10:12AM
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lyfia

Also be prepared that they can come and cut down and do whatever in the are of the easement and anything you plant there, they can rip out.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 2:47PM
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sylviatexas1

the co-op "would just have to find some other way to get electricity to them".

Then let them.

Of course they're saying that there are no adverse effects for you;
they couldn't get you to sign if they admitted that the adverse effects are stunning.

I cannot state this too strongly:

Don't do this.

It is in the best interests of other people (bet it's cheaper for the electric company to butcher your trees & take away your property rights than it is for them to get the power to the other people in whatever other way they have in mind), & it's absolutely against your own interests.

You'd be giving up property rights that you'd never be able to back.

& the "trimming" that they do to trees is butchery;
their contractors lop off limbs strictly to insure the safety of their power lines, it ruins the beauty of the trees, which are a valuable part of your property value, & if it's severe enough, it can kill your trees.

This is not your problem, & there's no reason you should sacrifice to solve it.

Don't give this easement.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 6:25PM
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sue36

I wouldn't do it unless they make it worth it for you financially, which is unlikely.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 7:07PM
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berniek

"Also be prepared that they can come and cut down and do whatever in the are of the easement and anything you plant there, they can rip out."

True, however, they usually per agreement, have to restore it in the same or better condition.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 8:50PM
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brickeyee

""Also be prepared that they can come and cut down and do whatever in the are of the easement and anything you plant there, they can rip out."

True, however, they usually per agreement, have to restore it in the same or better condition."

Depends on the exact wording of the easement.
In many cases they are not responsible to damage to 'improvements' since they are not allowed on the easement anyway.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 11:34AM
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berniek

"In many cases they are not responsible to damage to 'improvements' since they are not allowed on the easement anyway."

True, is a $2,000 tree an improvement?
Make sure it's spelled out.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 8:58PM
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kathyg_in_mi

It sounds to me that the lines will be underground. I sure would not want overhead lines.
We had a problem here with overhead lines and the easement. When this house was built they ran electric poles down the driveway and put one pole 12' off the corner of the house with a transformer on it. Years later homes were built on either side of this house and electricity was sent to them off the poles on my property, this was because the former owner granted them the easement.
Fast forward a few years. We wanted to have the pole nearest the house moved, did not like it so close to the house. Also wanted to build a garage next to the house. Well, we had to pay to have them move the pole, PLUS, we had to pay for a new pole for our neighbors to be connected to the poles. I love my neighbors, but OUCH! It cost us $5,000. Not where we wanted to spend our money, but really wanted that pole away from the house. And the garage had to be shorter because one of the wires ran over it. We weren't about to pay for a second pole.
So think hard about that easement, it could cost you big bucks in the future!
Kathy G in MI

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 11:11PM
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mscratch

When we lived in a rural part of Mo. the new neighbors that purchased 5 acres in what was basically a field, needed electric so we did allow the electric company to run lines from our pole to their property which caused no digging or cutting...however, the electric company came on a day when the ground was soft from a recent rain with their trucks and heavy equipment.. they came onto our lawn and you can imagine what tracks were left.. just because we didnt live in a town or heavily populated area they figured, no big deal...or at least that was my impression..so I called the electric company and told them about the damage and they sent a foreman out to inspect it.. he says to me "can't you use a shovel and fill it in?" I said "hell no, look at the ruts and tire marks!" he assured me that they would fix the damage.. yea, right.. after 3 more phone calls, still no satisfaction.. so my answer is let the neighbors and the electric company find an alternative way because once those lines are run they won't give a damn about you or what mess is left behind... we eventually sold the property and the grass grew in and we did attempt to fix the mess but I can still remember bouncing myself to no end when mowing that section and cussing each time for my stupidity simply because I saw no problem..lesson learned!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2009 at 8:16AM
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brickeyee

If this easement is for convenience, and not necessity (your land blocks all access to theirs) tell the forget it.

They can run the distribution lines a little further.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2009 at 3:51PM
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terryinmd

Here is where the situation stands now. We went down for the weekend. We saw the flags. They went right down the property line, veered towards the neighbors, then came back to our side past our house, and made a right angle turn to go to the neighbors house. We called Monday and left a message to say no. They called our home number on Monday, and asked for a return call, which my husband did yesterday afternoon.
The story has now changed. The rep. says they have an easement for overhead lines, which would go right on the property lines, and involve topping trees. What they want is an easement to bury the wires. My husband suggested that the line should go to the point where it veered back into our yard, then go at an angle to the neighbors instead. This would mean that the distributor box would be in line to run power to our house if we decided to upgrade, and it would avoid cutting limbs off trees in a section that blocks our view. We agreed that he could send us the paperwork with a map, and the location spelled out. We did not agree to sign the papers.

In the meantime we have gotten out our deed, and our plat, and have found nothing on either one that shows an easement or right of way, other than our own sewer line easement. There is some very vague language in the covenants, which says that the builder reserves the rights to give utility easements along the front, back and side lot lines, but nothing that states he has done so. Electric and phone are our only utilities. We have well water, and a septic system which pumps to a leach field. I'm going to try calling the county treasurer today to see what I can find out.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 7:06AM
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terryinmd

My call got transferred to the county clerk's office. She looked up our deed, and confirmed there was no electric easement on it. She also looked up the deed from the previous owner/developer/builder. There is no electric easement on that deed either. She suggested we ask the electric co-op to provide a reference number, or date of court proceedings, to confirm that an easement exists. I'm going to let DH handle that one, he can hold his temper better than I can.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 10:24AM
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sylviatexas1

Yikes!

You may need to get an attorney involved, but for the moment, before they start chopping trees, you might, as well as having hubs "visit", send an email & a certified registered letter with a return receipt requested, & send a 2nd copy of the letter regular mail, & tell them that you are instructing them in the strongest terms to stay off your property, & that any trespass onto your property by them or their employees or representatives or contractors will result in charges being filed & that any damage to your property will result in a suit for damages.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 11:42AM
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brickeyee

Their is an 'easement of necessity' or service to your house.

They are trying to get an easement or another property, and do not want the $$ for longer distribution lines (along the street typically).

Most likely any powers the developer had have ended.

If they push harder you are likely to need a lawyer.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 9:56PM
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terryinmd

I am throughly confused and fustrated.

DH called the power company rep, the rep called me, I called the county clerk again. There is an easement, recorded in a deed book, given by the former owner before we bought the property. The clerk said the location of the easement was not specified. It just says for lots 3-19. The power company is going to send us a copy of that too. I guess we just wait for all the paperwork now.

The question in my mind, is how many easements do they have? If our power comes from the pole at the corner of our lot, and goes diagonally accross our lot, in a straight line to our house, is that the "easement of necessity" ? If the easement is supposed to be along the side between the 2 properties, why wasn't ours put there? Did some co-op employee decide he was going to save on wiring by digging a straight line between two points?

If our only 2 choices are between having overhead wires, with a 15 foot area on either side, or an underground run, with an area of 7 1/2 feet on either side, I think we're going to give them the ground access. I want to know for sure that those are the only options before we sign anything. I don't know that we can afford to lawyer up.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 1:25PM
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GammyT

Terry go to the county clerk and get copies. You called on Monday and were told there wasn't an electric easement. On Thursday you call again and the story changed. Also notice how the electric companies story changed once you said no. Go to the clerks office and pull every record you can about your property.

IF you sign, only do so with a lawyer. Get it in writing exactly what the easement means in your case. Cross the T's and dot the I's. You don't want them to plant a box in your yard OR down the road put in anything else.

Also make sure you get in writing what your use of the easement will be. If this is anything like the easement on my property, you wont be able to plant a tree or put up a shed. You will be allowed to plant a veg garden with the knowledge a truck might drive over it if they need access.

Another thought, something similar happened to folks in my area. They held out and ended up selling the easement for enough to pay off their mortgage.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 2:58PM
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sylviatexas1

what gammy says.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 4:24PM
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brickeyee

Call your title insurance company.
They have a title abstract for the property.

You are likely to have to lawyer up.

An easement is required to have a pretty clear description of exactly what is being granted.

Generalities do not work here.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 5:25PM
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berniek

"Another thought, something similar happened to folks in my area. They held out and ended up selling the easement for enough to pay off their mortgage."

Must have been a pretty big easement. Permanent easements are only 50% of the value. Permanent exclusive ones might go as high as 90%, but usually are 75% of the value.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 8:50PM
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xamsx

What gammyt said indeed.

Get to the clerk, make copies, get a lawyer, and as brickeye suggested, contact your title company. And whatever you do, do NOT take the power company's word for anything.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2009 at 9:42AM
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ncrealestateguy

Follow the advice here. You may be surprised how much an attorney would take care of this for you.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2009 at 9:08AM
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sylviatexas1

any news?

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 1:00PM
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terryinmd

Good timing Sylvia. We got the mail yesterday afternoon.

One release document for us to sign, 2 copies of a "not to scale" sketch map of the proposed path of underground wire, and a copy of the signed easement from the former owner/developer, a return envelope, and the business card of the co-op employee.

The map is the same layout as before, and the release gives access along any road, street, or highway on the 30 acres. It says nothing about access along lot lines. It also appears to limit the number of poles, and the amount of trimming that can be done.

So DH called and left a voicemail. Paraphrased-- "You were supposed to provide us with a document showing you had access to our side property line. Either you left that document out, or you were misquoting--- Your map does not show the layout we discussed, which you said would not be a problem, and goes on for an indeterminate length.---call me at this number---we can discuss what compensation you are offering for us to allow this".

I'm letting the answering machine take all our calls today! DH took all the papers to work with him today, and we have the number for an attorney in that area.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2009 at 6:50AM
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sylviatexas1

Voicemail might not be considered "legal" notification.

Please send it in writing, certified/registered/return receipt requested, & include in the letter that you forbid them to set foot on your property until the matter is resolved.

Best luck.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 1:05PM
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GammyT

Your husband needs to send that in writing, notarized return receipt.

I left a voice mail and said XYZ is a lost cause if the other party says they never got the message.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 11:03PM
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terryinmd

We have to give them written approval to go underground. They can't do it without that, so voicemails saying no are fine.

After several more phone calls back and forth, we may have reached an agreement.

They have moved the line more to minimize tree trimming, and they will run a cable underground from the new transformer, to our house, now, which will be hooked up free when we want it.

Upgraded papers and maps are being sent. A registered letter stateing they will lay the cable will be sent.

DH didn't like the idea of poles and overhead wires on the property line, and the company rep agreed it would be cheaper to run the cable to us then to install poles and overhead wires.

I say may have, because we need to look at the paperwork, and the rep. has to get approval from his superiors. If they agree, then we get some benefit from this deal. If the cable run to our house is turned down, then we will not allow the easement, and they will just have to put in poles, or figure a way to snake an underground line completely on the other owners lot.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2009 at 9:12AM
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