Question: My home is located on a large lot with streets in front and behind my house.  I recently sold the back portion of my lot to a developer who subdivided and intends to build a home on it.  When he struck ground to dig for the foundation, the developer discovered that my water, sewer and gas lines run through his lot.  He is now demanding some money back from the sale in exchange for a utility easement.  What are my options?

Answer: Unfortunately, your utility lines encroach upon the developer’s land and could be considered trespassing.  The developer may have the right to disconnect the lines with proper administrative permission from the gas company and town.  As such, you will want to consider your alternatives quickly and perhaps begin negotiating.

Visit the town’s water/sewer department to identify main water and sewer lines near your home.  If none exist in the street in front of your home look to side streets or other direct routes to the nearest main lines.  Contact your gas company to locate nearby gas main lines from which you may connect.  With possible alternative connection locations, either upon your land, or a friendly neighbor’s, obtain an excavator’s estimate of the necessary costs involved to re-route your utility lines.  Also, speak with your neighbor if you would have to run your lines under their land.  They may wish to be compensated for their troubles.

After gathering the costs involved with pursuing your alternative options, compare them with the developer’s demands.  Remember, your negotiation stance is only as good as your alternative options.  Knowing your potential costs will help determine if the developer’s demands are reasonable.

It is likely the developer’s demands are less about the physical work costs, and more the result of the negative effect of the utility easements he will convey to you.  These easements will prevent construction of any structure or installation of a pool upon the easement area.  This may make the lot less attractive.

For your peace of mind, remember that the cost involved in rectifying the issue after the sale, may not be an extra charge.  Even if you knew about the utility lines before the sale, you would have still needed to move them and record an easement.  With advance knowledge of the lot’s easement, perhaps the developer would have offered less money.

Attorney James Haroutunian practices real estate law, estate planning and small business formation in Billerica at 790 Boston Road.  Contact him with questions at 978-671-0711, hlawoffice.com, prioritylaw.com,  or email him at james@hlawoffice.com.

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