Can I Request a Utility Company, With an Easement, Priovide Notice of Their Access and Bury Their Cables?

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‘I have a utility easement through my backyard. Qwest began to come in a short time ago and run cables along the easement. First they put down one cable, then two, then three, and now they have four cables running through my yard. The cables are above ground. I have two concerns: 1) The cables may be a safety hazard, as I have small grandchildren who play in the yard. I have asked them to bury the cables, but they say they are not under any obligation to bury them and have no plans to do so. 2) When they come to lay a cable or do maintenance on it, they do not inform us that they are going into our back yard. They simply jump the fence and enter our backyard at will. We have not tried to deny them access, so there’s no reason not to enter through through the front or notify us when they are coming to work in our yard. Can you tell me if they are obligated to bury the cables or implement some sort of safety provisions and if they are required to request permission or at least notify us when they are entering our yard?’

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

The first thing you need to do is look at the actual easement language. There may be something there that lets you know the scope of the easement in more detail, though more likely it just says something
like “public utility easement.”

Unfortunately, that leaves you in a kind of nebulous area. Generally, the owner of an easement (here, Qwest) has the right to use your land to a reasonable extent in order to fulfill the intent of the easement. So entering on your land in order to lay or maintain their utility lines is probably implied in the easement grant.

However, an easement owner is generally under an obligation to keep their impact on the landowner to a reasonable minimum. So they should take steps, within reason, to minimize the negative impact on you.

You’ve probably noticed the repeated word “reasonable” in all this. That’s the unfortunate part, because it means that there isn’t a clear answer in every situation as to whether they are acting “reasonably,” and different people can come to different conclusions as to what is reasonable and what isn’t.

Bottom line, you can explore negotiating with Qwest, or talking to a local attorney, but your legal rights will most likely depend on all the facts and circumstances of the case, so giving you a clear answer is
going to be difficult.

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Author: House Attorney

A house attorney has answered this question.