Note: The DearEsq free 'ask a lawyer' site is offered as a free informational service to the public and is not intended as legal advice. Laws vary from state-to-state, and in addition every situation is unique, and relevant facts may not be known. The answer to the question posed below may not apply to in your state or to your situation. For legal advice in your state and your situation you should consult with an attorney in your state who is familiar with the rules and laws in your state.
“My neighbor’s sewer is backed up. He wants to dig in my driveway, claiming a gas line running on his. What rights does he have if I don’t consent? He’s a lawyer and threatens a lawsuit claiming the law being on his side. I am in the town of North Hempstead, Long Island, NY. The town office says I have the rights to my property, but it’s deemed a private matter and they wouldn’t/couldn’t get involved.
Thanks in advance for your clarifications on this matter.”
You would need to check your property records to see if there is a public utility easement attached to your deed for the sewer line. Generally, the only person with the right to use that easement is the utility company or municipality – not your neighbor as a private individual. If the town office has told you that this is a private matter, then it is unlikely that the utility company/municipality is involved – meaning this is something you need to work out with your neighbor.
From what it seems like, he does not have the right to dig on your property. If he does enter your property without your permission, it is trespass and you can file civil charges against him. Furthermore, if he digs on your property without your permission you can sue him for damages resulting from his digging. That said, you do have some options available.
First, you can grant him a temporary right to dig under your property for his sewer line either as a good neighbor (for free) or for a price (in consideration of the inconvenience it will cause you). You can also stipulate that he is required to remediate any damage caused to your property after the work has been completed to your satisfaction or by a contractor of your choosing, e.g., pay for the cost to repair your driveway after the work is finished. You should get estimates before any work commences so you have a dollar figure attached to the scope of work that will likely be involved. You may also
You may also want to consult with an attorney, who will be able to better inform you of your rights after reviewing the property records. An attorney will also be able to draft a letter informing your neighbor that you do not want him digging under your driveway. It may also be helpful to consult with a plumber to determine what the sewer line arrangement is on your street (shared sewer lines or what). Your neighbor may have already gone through this process with a plumber, and you can ask what his plumber told him. Finally, you can sit down with your neighbor and discuss what laws he believes permit him to dig up your property. You may be able to work out a resolution amicably without the expense of hiring an attorney. Just be sure any agreement you reach, if any, is in writing and signed by both you and your neighbor.