Whose is Responsible for Fixing a Gas Leak if the Meter is Shared by Two Homes?

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‘I Live in Tiburon, CA. My uphill neighbor had a gas leak outside her laundry room. Pacific Gas & Electric came to the site and they confirmed that my meter has been servicing my neighbor’s utility room hot water heater for years and they turned off the gas meter that also services my home. PG&E told me it was my responsibility to have it fixed even though it was on my neighbor’s property. I did fix it and it cost me $700.00. There are no utility easements with this neighbor. What is her responsibility for this repair bill and paying me back for her using my gas meter?’

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It’s not clear from your question (and you may not know) whether your neighbor did this on purpose or it was set up that way by someone else and neither of you knew about it until now.

If your neighbor was knowingly stealing your gas, you should probably talk to the police about that first. But let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she didn’t.

At a minimum, I think she should reimburse you for the reasonable value of the gas she’s been using. That may not be a large amount, depending on the size of the heater and the length of time this has been going on. As for the repair bill from PG&E, I don’t think I fully understand what it is they did, but most likely in fairness your neighbor ought to contribute something toward that.

As for the lack of easement, technically there shouldn’t be a gas pipe in there whether it’s connected or not. However, if your neighbor didn’t put it in, and it’s not in use, and it isn’t interfering with your use of the property, a court might not make your neighbor incur the cost of removing it.

Material that is on your property without permission is technically a trespass. You are certainly within your rights to remove it yourself, but a court will weigh the harm to either side before ordering the other party to incur that cost. It’s a balancing test, so it’s not a certainty that a court would rule one way or the other, and you should be aware of the uncertainty before you go to your neighbor and demand removal.

If you have–or want to have in the future–a good relationship with your neighbor, some neighborly flexibility in enforcing your legal rights in this situation is probably warranted.

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Author: House Attorney

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