Can a Utility Company Dig in My Yard Without Permission?

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Waking up almost every morning to the sound of construction going on near your neighborhood is not an unusual occurrence. However, waking up just to realize that utility flags are scattered across your lawn and someone digging in your yard is another story completely. But the very fact is, utility companies often do that. And you may be wondering at a point: Can a utility company dig in my yard without permission?

If you’re wondering and want to know if a utility company can dig in your yard without permission, you should probably stick around and read the rest of this blog post cause it might help you know some few things.

And also in some of the sections below, we are going to give you tips on what you can do as a homeowner or landlord if you are facing any difficulty with the utility company.

Can a Utility Company Come And Dig My Yard?

The answer to that question is YES, unfortunately. A utility company can dig in your yard without any permission or even notice. … So this gives or provides the utility companies with the legal right to be on your property to repair any broken lines that are buried underground it could be.  Power, Telephone, gas, and water lines or install new utility lines, even if it has to do with making changes to your yard.

If for example you have built a structure or landscaped an area, which is over an easement, the company has the full right to remove them to maintain that easement.

A good example of a utility easement is when the power company is authorized to install electrical lines and erect utility poles to support them. Not only does the utility company have the full right to use a strip of land for the lines, but they’ll also step into your property if repair and maintenance are needed.

Can a Utility Company Force an Easement?

The utility company has the right to use your yard to maintain and fix their lines, pipes, or equipment. However, land or property owners can take a utility company to court if a company abuses the easement.

Usually, the property deed comes with a utility easement, so that it will remain valid and doesn’t change even when the property has been sold out or transferred. That said, If you’re the next owner of the property or if you’re hoping to buy a house generally, it helps to know the easements of your chosen property before you finally seal the deal.

While an easement fully gives the right to the utility company to use or have access to your land, they do not own it. You still get to retain the title and you’re the owner but someone who owns easement to your property has the right to use your property whenever the need arises.

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But if that’s the case, you, as the landowner, may still face some restrictions when using part of your land that’s covered by the easement.

While the goal of easements is to primarily allow utility companies to have access to your area for work, your neighbour may also own easements. In this case, you may even see your neighbours passing through your yard just to have access to a street.

Can a Property Owner Block an Easement?

Understanding your rights as a landowner is very crucial so you’ll know how to approach an issue like this, especially if you are feeling like your privacy has been violated. At the same time, you’ve to know where you ought to stand and when to comply to avoid embarrassing situations, like calling the police for no valid reason.

If the house you purchased came with an easement, there’s nothing you can do but comply. A utility company working on power lines, telephone lines water pipelines, and so on, are doing their job and it’s a necessity.

At the same time, if your yard is the only area neighbours can have access to get to another street, meaning you can’t block the way or you can’t even stop them from crossing your yard. If you are doing so, someone can file a complaint against you and you may face a lawsuit.

How Will An Easement Affect Your Home Plans?

If you’ve plans to change your yard or any area in your property, then you would like to find out more about the easement. Let’s say you wanted to construct a deck over a particular area in your property people can legally access.

If you push through with this project, you’ll be forced to destroy the structure. Or even worse, you could end up in court. For this reason, it is crucial to know when it comes to an easement on a property you’re eyeing before you can buy it.

To make it simple, an easement gives a company or individuals the full right needed to legally use a landowner’s property for a particular purpose. This purpose should be explained clearly on the easement.

What this also means is that you simply are the sole owner of your property; your neighbour cannot use the easement as an excuse to create a structure on your property. Simply, an easement gives the right of usage for a particular purpose, not grant ownership of land to an individual.

Are Utility Companies Responsible For Damages?

Damages done to your property occurring from carelessness or accidents are bound, especially when a utility company digs in your yard.

If the company or its subcontractors do certain damage to your land while doing their work, you need to immediately notify the persons involved. This can be true if the utility company or the subcontractors didn’t accept the damage.

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Let’s take this scenario, for instance, you wake up to find Verizon digging in your yard due to service upgrade job. Or possibly a utility company decided to go to your property without your knowledge and started digging in your backyard. As a result, Verizon or the utility company damaged your driveway. Should you expect them to compensate you for the damages?

In most cases, the utility company are going to be held responsible for the damages done on your property. It’s worth noting that every state has different laws they pass when it comes to this situation. But in general, the law requires that the utility companies pay compensation.

What To Do If a Utility Company Damages My Property?

If damages are done to your property, it’s best to notify the corporate. They should be able to let you know when it will be suitable for them to repair. If not, they will inform you when they will be able to send over a cheque to cover the damage.

More importantly, it’s your duty to follow-up so don’t be shy about it. A tip from many property owners is to bug the company about your concern. Another way to get them serious with your concern is to call them two to three times a day. This will likely make them shove your concern on top of their list.

When Utility Companies Hesitate To Pay For Damages

While most utility corporate pay compensation to property owners with zero hesitation, others might end up putting a challenge. If you’re having difficulty contacting the company or if you are feeling like they are not giving much attention to your concern, you have two ways to approach this:

Contact the state agency that oversees all public utilities. You can get this by going through the official .gov website of your state of residence. Once you have done that, check on where and how you can file a complaint to the company.

Make sure you try and do a follow-up on your concern. If you prevail, which in most cases you would, the utility company will pay you for damages done on your yard.

If you’ve called them and did a follow-up on your concern several times but to no avail, you can move to the next step which is taking the issue to court.

Can I Remove Utility Flags In My Yard: Is This Illegal?

Seeing colourful flags in your yard are often surprising – and perhaps sometimes, frustrating, especially if you like to keep a beautiful, clean yard. But if it happens to you, you ought to know that someone is about to turn it into an excavation site. At this point you would possibly start to wonder, “Can I remove utility flags in my yard?”

So, can you remove any utility flags in your yard? The answer is NO, you can’t remove any utility flags place in your yard. You’re better off leaving them where they’re.

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Utility flags are placed to prevent any disturbances or accidents in the area as utility work is being carried out. Though, if the flag has been there for nearly a month without any activity carried out, the property owner may then be able to remove them.

Utility companies usually place flags to mark underground structures for projects like repair and also maintenance. As you notice those flags, you may not be certain of what to do or what they mean.

Can I Sue My Utility Company?

Is it possible to sue your utility company? The answer to the question is actually YES, you can. If the damage done on your hard has not been compensated despite many attempts of reaching out to them, whether directly or via proper channels, you may consider hiring a lawyer.

To take matters to court, you need to be ready with your proof at hand that the utility company has been careless with their task. You also need to prove that they have neglected to repair the damages or provide compensation. If you’re going this route, make sure you have a good lawyer that has experience in handling with utility troubles.

Conclusion

If you’re surprised by the sight of a trench dug on your yard by a utility company, it’s normal for a property owner to be upset and wonder whether or not a utility corporate can actually dig on your land without any permission or approval.

Unfortunately yes, they very much can. Keep it in mind that even if you’ve not given any approval to them, utility companies can dig in your yard because of the easements.

Utility companies aren’t the only ones that may own easement to your property. Even your neighbours can have an easement over your property, giving them access to your yard or land. This means they can step foot on your yard and not be considered trespassing, as long as they use this access for a particular purpose.

You also have the full right to file a complaint if damages were done to your property while utility companies were doing their work on your yard. In most cases, you will be given compensation or paid for that damage. While in some cases you won’t be given compensation, and it’s best advised to work with a lawyer.

Sarah Walker
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