Easements – Must We Agree to an Easement Demand?

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A reader writes: “About 10% of people in town decided they had faulty septic systems..So now all of us have to pay out all this money to have sewers installed…They just sent me a letter from some group of lawyers telling me I had to sign a Right of Way easement agreement by Nov. 7th or I would have to pay extra to connect to the main sewer line, they said I would need a grinder pump on my property..They had a diagram of where the easement would be and it is all solid rock in that area and they would never be able to dig there…On the other side of property they would be able to dig…Now if I signed this thing and they found out it was a mistake where they had the easement what happens…A lot of us are older people living on social security and can not afford these extra costs…I think there are certain people in town who will gain financially by putting in this sewer system…What recourse do I have….We dont even want this system..Our septics are in perfect condition…”

You don’t say whether it is the town who is demanding the easement, or a homeowners’ or neighborhood association, or some other private group. If it is the town, unfortunately, that old saying “you can’t fight City Hall” evolved for a reason. While in reality you can fight City Hall, it is rarely a happy experience. And if the town can prove that they have an overwhelming overriding interest in installing the new system, and they truly need to get across your land, they may be able to force the easement through the power of eminent domain.

If the demand is coming from a private organization, they don’t have the weight of eminent domain behind them, but if they are a group to whom you are somehow legally beholden, or with whom you have a contract, such as a homeowner’s association, then your options and rights will be governed by your relationship with the group, and what is spelled out in any legal agreement between you.

If, on the other hand, this is a just a group of neighbors with whom you have no formal or legal affiliation at all, your chances of fighting the easement are greater, but it does seem unlikely that someone with no legal basis for demanding an easement, or for changing around your septic system, would attempt to do so.

In any event, your first step must be consulting with an experienced real estate attorney in your local area. Were it me, I would have that attorney write a letter to the other lawyers explaining that you are not adverse to granting the easement, but that it needs to be in a spot different from that which they had originally identified.