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Old 05-21-2008, 01:33 PM
513 posts, read 1,910,689 times
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As someone mentioned above, many properties have an easement of some sort and the owners aren't even aware of it. In most newer S/D's, there are water collection easements that run throughout the neighborhoods, as in our case. These are required in order for proper drainage. Without them there could be problems! We have a storm drain easement at the very back of our property that simply runs behind all the homes on our street and out between homes underground to the storm collection drains throughout the neighborhood. You would never know it's there. Again, as someone said, the only potential problem is where it is - like if it ran through the middle of your back yard. Probably over half the homes in the neighborhood have these storm water easements somewhere around their homes. It definitely does not mean that the homes are in a flood plain! You should always make sure your home is not in one, however. Again, in newer S/D's, particularly since Hurricane Katrina, there are very strict rules about not building in flood plains.
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Old 05-21-2008, 02:43 PM
Location: Union County, NC
1,891 posts, read 5,540,309 times
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Originally Posted by jaycharlotte2005 View Post
I plan to buy a new inventory home but the center of the backyard there has a storm water easement that runs from right to left center and drains of the underground hole outside that yard's left side.
The water easement is actually 2 neighboring home plots length only. But I am worried that I have to either construct a French drain with underground pipe but not sure how much it will cost or risk flooding of the backyard during moderate rain. Should i be worried about the fix up cost and also the resale value because of having a storm water easement in the backyard ?

Thanks in advance for your expert opinions!

Is it an easement that involves pipe (below ground?), or is it simply swails that drain water off of the property? If they are swails, many properties have them (including mine) and it is to direct the drainage away from the foundations. IMO, definitely worth a visit in the middle of a thunderstorm...
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Old 05-21-2008, 07:26 PM
Location: NE Charlotte, NC (University City)
1,894 posts, read 5,717,059 times
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OK folks...hold the phone. Let me try to sort out some myth here and maybe even try to help this guy out. I work smack dab in the middle of this field of discussion, so I can hopefully help. This is going to get lengthy, but it's needed to clear up some misconception here.

First and foremost...if you have an easement on your property (any type of easement: storm water, water line, sewer line, etc.), the entity that has rights to that easement (presumably the city, county, or state) MUST restore the property to as-good or better condition if they ever access the easement to work on their "thing" that's in the easement. As long as the property owner didn't violate the terms of the easement and build a permanent structure on it, there should be no permanent or drastic damage or changes to the owner's property (to the land or things on the land). Yes, sometimes contractors can leave the work area looking like crap, but a phone call gets the inspector out to verify that it is indeed crap, and it gets corrected. 99% of the time, it's done and over with, and you'd never know something was there.

Generally speaking, no permanent structure can be constructed on top of an easement: swimming pools, house additions, garages, etc. Non-permanent structures usually are allowed: decks, sheds, driveways, playgrounds, etc. However, if the easement is in place before a non-permanent structure (i.e. you buy a place with an easement but there's no non-permanent structure in place already), you'll more than likely have to be responsible for removing it and replacing it at your cost if access is ever needed to that item in the easement (as opposed to when they get an easement signed from you, you have bargaining power to make the entity move and replace the non-permanent structure at their cost since you're doing them a favor by granting the easement). You should be able to build permanent structures all the way up to the easement line. If the entity who created the easement did their job right, they left enough room within the easement to dig a hole and get to the "thing" buried in the easement without disturbing nearby structures. If this is not the case, you have the upper hand because they didn't figure the easement wide enough...and you go back to the negotiating table *IF* work ever needs to be done. Hope that makes sense...ask if not.

Remember, an easement *usually* is not much wider, if any wider at all, than the set back requirements for building on your lot anyway (usually anywhere from 5-15' in a newer residential neighborhood). These set backs are imposed by the local government and/or the HOA. That being said, you usually don't lose much, if any, build-able area in your lot from an easement. I'm not saying there aren't some easements that cut strange directions across a lot and do take a chunk out of your build-able footprint, but those are the exception...and the owner is usually well-compensated for having to live with that (in the form of payment if the easement is acquired later, or in a much lower sale price).

About the flood plane...
Here's the link to the FEMA FIRM (Flood Insurance Rate Map) website: FEMA Map Service Center -
If you are not a slightly technical person, this will be a confusing thing to look at. Basically, you enter your address in the top left (Flood Maps is the default search). The search will return all available maps for that address. Click the "view" button. This will open a new window and an interactive FIRM viewer. Now the hard part....zoom in and find where your house is. Some FIRM maps are old...10+ years or so...so your street may not be shown. You have to do a best guesstimate of where it is.

Or, for this specific case, use Union County's GIS website: http://maps.co.union.nc.us/gomaps/map/Index.cfm (nearly all urban counties in the US have these kinds of sites nowadays, just Google your county's "GIS" website). Search for the parcel of interest, turn on the layers called FEMA Zones 1994 and FEMA Preliminary to see if the FEMA flood zone touches your property.

These maps are not the tell-all, be-all for whether or not your property will "flood." These are FEMA maps...their sole purpose in life is to tell the insurance companies whether or not to gouge your rates! They represent the modeled or assumed 100-year flood elevation...meaning, you can *probably* expect to see water there once every 100 years. A typical stream or ditch can easily come out of it's banks in a heavy rain storm or prolonged rain event. An adjacent property and/or structure *could* be affected by this. It all depends 100% on the topography of the lot (how much it slopes up form the stream) and just how much water gets to that stream (how much development is in the area). A stream out in the country will have to deal with much less water than a stream running through uptown due to the amount of impervious (built on) surfaces not letting water get into the ground.

The only way to tell if a yard or house will flood is to have a professional make an assessment. If there is a stream behind or very near to the property and there is not a significant slope (on the order of 10-15 feet high) combined with a wide "valley" for the stream to flood into if it leaves it's banks, you can't really say it will never flood. It's not a given that it will flood either.

My house for example has a 20' elevation change from my foundation to the stream behind us. There's also a very wide area (a valley, or flood plane) accompanying the stream along it;s path through the woods. I can guarantee this house will never flood in any event short of catastrophic or biblical!

Without knowing much specific detail about the original poster's property, I can't make any judgment at all. If you'd like to send me the parcel address or parcel ID number, I'd be happy to take a look at the website ad give a very unofficial opinion of the flood potential.

I'm out of breath now form typing this and dead tired (just got in from a stream seminar in Asheville for the past 3 days, of all things!)...that's all for now. Feel free to post questions about this and I'll try to answer.

The main thing is to not run and hide from the word "easement."
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Old 05-21-2008, 09:51 PM
16 posts, read 131,098 times
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Post direct message

Thanks steve for your detailed response. I have direct messaged you that home address.
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Old 05-22-2008, 02:48 PM
Location: State of Being
35,885 posts, read 66,914,083 times
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Hey, Steve - great info, wonderful post - just wanted to thank you for the helpful info and also the links. Wanted you to know someone was out here noticing what you had taken time to do - and that I learned from it.
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Old 03-28-2009, 11:28 AM
33 posts, read 156,118 times
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Default Sewer Easement

I have a 14 foot "sanitary sewer easement" on the North side of my house in between my home and the adjacent neighbor's house.

About 12 ft. of the easement is on my house and about 2 feet crosses over to inside the neighbor's property line.

He went ahead and built a 6 foot privacy fence right on the property line which technically is ahead of 2 ft of the easement area.

He said "he's not concerned" and that the sewer itself is "about 10 feet down underground. and that if they ever have to come between our properties to excavate for repairs he is prepared to loose his fence and understands he would have to pay to have it rebuilt.

I have the manhole cover on the Northwest corner of my backyard property and am now thinkng "Do I finish the fence to close the manhole cover in" or "go around the manhole cover".

The county does come through to my rear property line from the adjacent woods with a trimmer once each summer.

No one in Unionc County can give me a straight answer as to whether I can fence the manhole cover in or should I have to go around it.
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Old 03-28-2009, 02:04 PM
Location: NE Charlotte, NC (University City)
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*Typically*, a utility easement allows non-permanent structures to be built upon them with the acknowledgment of the owner's responsibility for removing and replacing them at their sole cost. These would include fences, sheds, patios, etc. Swimming pools, hard structures like an addition to your home or a detached garage, and other permanent things are not allowed at all...not even with an acknowledgment of responsibility to remove them at the easement owner's will (e.g. the County). There's just too much liability for a hard structure to be on top of a utility...especially one that transmits water where seepage into the pipe could occur and cause a mini sinkhole under the structure.

To answer your fence question directly Frank, without having the details of your easement in front of me, I would say yes you can build a fence around it. However, the easement owner (the County) will have the right to enter your property at will to inspect the line and manhole. To do actual work on the line, they must give notice. But inspection generally does not need notice.

In any case, I would double check with the utility entity to be 100% sure. I don't live or work in Union County, so I'm not familiar with their practices. But I have no inkling to believe they are any different than other utilities across the country. I'm just saying it's better to be safe than sorry.

I will say this however...
You are 100% responsible for knowing exactly where and how deep those lines are. Since you'll be setting fence posts, it's imperative that you get this info...typically through the utility department. Or, if you feel adventurous, pop the lid on the sewer with a crow bar and see how deep the pipe is in the direction of where you'll be installing the fence. If possible, go find the next upstream manhole and do the same. If the pipe is significantly deeper than the post holes you're going to be digging, you're ok. If it looks to be only 2-4 feet deep, you may want to consider installing the fence a few feet off the center of that line to avoid hitting the pipe while digging the holes. The cost to repair that line would most certainly put you in the poor house...and likely draw some trouble from the County in terms of fines or even criminal charges.
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Old 03-28-2009, 05:07 PM
Location: Charlotte, NC
7,041 posts, read 13,086,931 times
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Great posts, Steve!! Very informative. As an underwriter, I am now called upon to study the property's legal descriptions and look up the information on any easements found. So, this is great knowledge to have!
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Old 03-28-2009, 08:28 PM
10 posts, read 94,793 times
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Please please please take my advice and do your research. If you have a worry - go with your gut and don't buy the house. We have a very beautiful home and settled on our lot - we have a hill in our backyard and right above this hill is the other row of homes on the next block...When we bought the home - we were in a drought. We had never had a home built and aren't from around here. Little did we know our side yard from the very back yard all the way to the street would be a creek...It dried up here and there but never for long. Our whole entire back yard is nothing but mud all the time - it never dries up.
We sodded our whole front yard and side yard and do not have the creek anymore but now we have to work on the back yard and who knows how much money it will cost to either put in a french drain, which our neighbor has and she says doesn't work, or to drop more dirt, add sod, etc...If we had known about this - we would have never ever bought this home!
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Old 03-29-2009, 07:21 AM
Location: NE Charlotte, NC (University City)
1,894 posts, read 5,717,059 times
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Sounds like you need to take this to the developer, Mommie1025. Hopefully it hasn't been too long. Per the development plans, all lots must slope positively as to not allow standing water. If it's running water, that's a different thing. But if it just collects and sits, they built it wrong.
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