I have a house under contract (a foreclosure) in the state of VA. When doing inspections today, the adjoining neighbor informed me that the lateral lines from the septic system encroach onto his property and that I would have to move them. The tank is on the land I'm buying as are most of the lines, with about 50' of the lines extending onto his land.
He told me that he built the house and had the septic installed in 1970. In researching the deeds, I discovered that at the time the septic was installed, the lot was owned by the same person as the lot where it encroaches. The surname is the same as the man I spoke with, though the given/first name is different, so I'm surmising the property was all owned by one of his relatives when the system was installed.
The house has changed hands multiple times since it was built in 1970 and the person with whom I spoke today last acquired it in 1990 and sold it in 1991. When I asked him if he'd consider selling the adjoining lot (steep, unbuildable, and virtually useless), he said that he just sold it to someone else. He also said that he recently plowed his garden and dug up the lines (doubtful because after speaking to the county, we learned the lines were approximately 3' deep). He said the system would have to be redone - and moved off his lot - before the house could be lived in.
I should add that this person told us he also put an offer on the house - and was most likely upset that our offer was accepted, so he's trying to discourage us.
I'm thinking this septic system would qualify for an implied easement. It was installed at a time when both the lot with the system and the lot where it encroaches were owned by the same person. It's been used continuously since (with the exception of the past year since the foreclosure). It's necessary for use of the house. It's particularly bothersome that the person who claims to have installed it is now objecting to its existence!
If I can have new lines installed at a reasonable cost, I will do so to avoid a war with my new neighbor, but the 1-acre lot is very steep and I'm surmising they were originally installed where they are because the rest of the lot was not suitable.
I love the lot/house and would really like to purchase it, but obviously, I don't want to buy a lot without a septic system and no other options.
I'm wondering if this sounds like a case of implied (quasi) easement (or easement by prior use) and if so, what recourse do I have against him if he's destroyed the lines, as he's claimed (or does so in the future)? And are these cases typically cut-and-dry or is a long court battle likely to ensue?