Our Neighbors are Requesting We Sign an Encroachment Agreement Before Repairing a Sewer With a Shared Line. Any Advice?

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‘We need to replace a sewer lateral at our single family residence that has fallen into disrepair due to age, ground movement and the type of materials that were used (ceramic pipe sections). The lateral ties into a shared line (shared by other property/ies) that then runs to the sewer main down in the street. The hitch is that the connection to the shared line occurs in our next door neighbor’s property and we need to dig down to the connection to effect the replacement. Our neighbors are amenable to the repairs but, at the advice of their attorney, would like us to draft an “encroachment agreement” that both parties would endorse. We have already agreed to repair any of their hardscape/landscaping we might damage in the process of the repair. Any advice for this situation? Especially in terms of limiting our exposure to future claims that our repair damaged their property in some as yet undefined way. The properties in question are both single family homes on their own parcels of land with setbacks on all sides (as opposed to a town home or condo).’

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What I would suggest is to have an attorney draft the agreement. Think of the cost of the attorney like an insurance premium: you’re paying to avoid trouble in the future.

As a practical matter, your liability will depend on whether, in fact, your work damages something on the neighbor’s property. Unless the neighbors give up that right (and there’s no particular reason the
neighbors would do that), you’re pretty much stuck with it. But, of course, if you use a contractor to do the work, you can most likely recover from them if it’s their mistake. Which is why it’s a good idea to make sure your contractor has adequate insurance.

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Author: House Attorney

A house attorney has answered this question.