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Learning More About A Public Utility Easement: Answering Key Questions

A public utility easement is one of the most common types of easements that exist on properties. Usually, this type of easement is clear-cut in the fact that utility providers need to access people’s properties to add pipes or service lines. The following questions and answers will give you a clearer picture of how this type of easement is used.

What Is A Public Utility Easement?

A utility easement is a part of a parcel of land that is defined for use by utilities. This easement is normally established during the planning stages of a subdivision’s or property’s development. The easement allows utility providers to access a parcel of real estate to add lines or make repairs.

What Do Utility Easements Cover?

Utility easements are set aside for repairing or installing overhead electrical lines, television or telephone lines, and underground lines or pipes for water, telephone, sewer, or cable. While it is not common to have several utility easements on a piece of real estate, electrical lines and water lines, in some instances, run on separate easements.

What Is The Main Purpose Of Establishing A Utility Easement?

Usually, a utility easement is set up for the good of the local area. For example, it is more cost-efficient and practical to run a utility line in one straight line versus running it around separate parcels of real estate. Easements of this type also permit utilities to reduce costs substantially by reducing the number of raw materials for service. When a shorter amount of pipes or lines need to be maintained, the maintenance and service costs are lowered as well.

How Do Utility Easements Affect The Use Of A Property?

While a utility easement does not give a utility company free rein on a property, the utility does have the right to use the land in a way to benefit the community. Therefore, a utility provider can install underground lines or utility poles. This type of easement also affects what a property owner can or cannot do on his or her property.

For instance, if the easement permits the installation of utility lines across the backyard, you may not be permitted to plant trees in that spot. If trees are already on the property in the space of the easement, the utility company can trim the trees if the lines, for instance, are coming into contact with the branches.

Alternatively, you may not be able to install an in-ground pool if the utility provider has underground lines installed in the easement area. If you have any questions in this regard, you should consult with an easement lawyer located in San Diego. He or she can clear away the fog that often exists when it comes to easement matters.

What Are The Key Benefits Featured By Utility Easements?

While the land making up utility easements is privately owned, it can still be used by a utility company to add underground lines or utility poles. Utility easements benefit the public because they keep utility expenses down. The only drawback is the fact that you may not be able to build certain structures, or plant shrubs or trees on specific property areas.

Who Owns The Utility Easement?

Contrary to what some homeowners believe, utility companies do not own utility easements. While they can easily access and work on these strips of land, they do not own the land. A landowner owns all the utility easements on his or her property.

Why Is It Important To Keep A Utility Easement Cleared?

Keeping the land cleared where the easement is located is important as it assists utilities to perform regular maintenance and service, or build improvements (such as a new sanitary pipeline). Repair lines can also be more easily accessed during an emergency, such as the removal of trees after a windstorm.

What Happens If I Try To Build On An Existing Easement?

You cannot build on an existing easement as any building is subject to the construction setback lines. The setback lines are indicated on subdivision plats, available at the planning and zoning office in a community. Any building that you do construct should be pre-planned, and be within the easements located on your property. You can obtain further information about building rights by contacting a San Diego attorney who manages easement cases.

How Is The Property Owner Affected If The Utility Marks The Yard For Construction Purposes?

If you talk to a San Diego easement attorney, he or she will tell you that, by law, that a utility company can mark a utility location in a yard within the easement boundaries. The color, type, and location of the markings are mandated by the law.  While a utility will try to limit any damage to landscaping, any destruction to a landscape, situated inside the boundaries of a utility easement, are a landowner’s’ responsibility.

Can A Property Owner Add Decorative Shrubs On A Utility Easement?

Decorative type landscaping is permitted in a utility easement, with the understanding that any plants placed inside the boundaries of the right-of-way can be subject to damage, and therefore are not the responsibility of the utility easement holder. Therefore, replacement for any damage is up to the utility. Legally, a company does not have to pay for replacement. You can find out more details about this aspect to utility easements by speaking to a San Diego easement lawyer.


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