ISSUE: How Can a Company Dig a Hole in My Lawn – Without My Permission – and Just Walk Away When They’re Finished?

FACT: Easements sometimes exist on a property and allow another individual or company to use someone else's land for a specific purpose, such as underground utility lines or drainage.
Chances are, you, or someone you know, has returned home one day to find painted lines, wooden stakes, or little marker flags in their yard. “How could this be,” you might wonder? After all, you probably didn’t give anyone permission to mark up your yard. Let us ease your fears – people and companies can’t just show up and dig up someone’s yard – they need an easement to do so. Chances are though, they already have one.

Let’s say the utility company that provides natural gas needs to replace aging hardware underground around your home. In order to do that, they’re going to have to dig down to the gas line and conduct their repairs. If that’s the case, there’s an easement on your property that allows them to do this. 

Any easements would be indicated on a property survey of your home, or on the title policy from when you purchased the property. If you’re aware that a company or individual is planning to do easement work on your property, it never hurts to ask them for proof of its location.

Now, when any work is done, there’s nothing that says the company using the easement has to put everything back exactly as they found it, but everything must be left in a safe state that doesn’t endanger life or property. If that’s not the case, property owners should reach out to the specific company that did the  work. Anything left behind, such as a utility box, is the property of the company that installed it, not the land owner. 

Unfortunately for property owners, there’s nothing that says easement holders are required to notify anyone that they’re going to do any work. That said, most will give a courtesy notice of any activity that’s about to begin.
If you’re planning to do any digging of your own, however, there’s a service called Miss Utility that will notify utility companies to mark their lines, to avoid any damage. For example, if you’re putting in a pool, it helps to know where the power and sewer lines are. Simply call 811 from any phone in Virginia, or 1-800-552-7001, and Miss Utility will notify the relevant parties.

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