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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2010

    Default Utility Co. Has Put Another Customer's Outdoor Light on My Property

    My question involves real estate located in the State of: GA

    Not really a property line dispute, per se, but here is the issue. I live in a rural area. A person who lives in a house near my pasture has paid for an outdoor utility light that was placed on a utility pole in my pasture about 20 feet from the line. It has been there a long time. The light shines directly down onto my property, and I guess the guy who has been paying for it has been happy with the spillover since he's been paying for it for several years.

    I no longer want the light shining down on my property. At first the utility said it was simple, then they wanted me to pay for a new pole in the guy's yard and put up some resistance, saying they rent the space on their poles. I told them they didn't have to move the pole, and they could even attach the light to the pole, but they need to find a 20-30 foot bracket to stretch the dang light over into the guy's yard so it is shining where it is supposed to shine. I talked to an attorney who said it was a no-brainer, you can't pay for a utility light located on another person's property. His reasoning was, if it was new service, they would ask the guy where he wants to put his light and locate it accordingly, and if he said wanted it on someone else's property then they would obviously say, "No." BTW, I never agreed to the light, it's just been there a long time. And the guy's electric service doesn't even run off this pole, just the outdoor light.

    The utility is supposed to call tomorrow, and I think when they heard my attorney's opinion it will all work out fine (seems obvious), but thought I would check for other opinions or maybe someone has similar experience.

    Pretty sure someone can't just order up and pay for a security light on my property, right?


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Behind a Desk

    Default Re: Utility Co. Has Put Another Customer's Outdoor Light on My Property

    If they have an easement for the utility pole and the light is consistent with their easement, they can keep the light there. We don't know what the easement says while, I would assume, your lawyer does and found that it does not permit the light - beyond that, we are in no position to second-guess your lawyer.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2010

    Default Re: Utility Co. Has Put Another Customer's Outdoor Light on My Property

    Actually getting somewhere with this. Had a talk with the neighbor, and turns out the guy paying for this light would actually like to have the light in his yard instead of my pasture and he is willing to call and tell the utility company to move it. Definitely better when we can get along to get along.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2010

    Default Re: Utility Co. Has Put Another Customer's Outdoor Light on My Property

    Well, here's an update, and interesting in that it relates to some of the easement claims due to passage of I learned about on some other threads.

    Utility company claimed they had a signed easement from 40 years ago. Problem is, that easement was signed by someone who did not own the property where the light is. He thought he owned it, but he was off by about 15 feet. That's how the light got to be 15 feet into my property.

    Obvious solution was to move the light, and I had a strong argument for moving the light and the pole, but I even suggested to the utility that if the there was a bracket long enough that could support the weight of the fixture, they could just attach a 20 foot bracket to the pole, thereby extending the light over into the neighbor's yard which is what the light is supposed to be illuminating anyway. This thread is wordy, but remember that was the solution I suggested on MY FIRST PHONE CALL to the utility.

    Unfortunately I ran into a litigious weenie and she didn't want to do what was cheap, easy and better for her customers. Ironically, she went down the path first of the signed easement, and when that didn't work she tried to argue the prescriptive easement. Even after I pointed out to her that her easement wasn't even signed by the owner of the property, he signed it MISTAKENLY believing he owned the property, she said it didn't matter. It HAD BEEN THAT WAY FOR OVER X NUMBER OF YEARS (about 33 I believe) so they had an easement based on that.

    This scenario points out why the word "may" is in the code. One "may" claim a prescriptive easement and also one "may not" DEPENDING ON THE CIRCUMSTANCES. The passage of time is only ONE circumstance. Allow me to explain.

    She asked me why I had allowed the light to be there for 33 years and never complained before. I told her I had answered that question in my initial phone call if SHE HAD LISTENED. The problem with the light is that the trees on my property, between the light and the neighbor's yard who pays for the light, had only now after 33 years, begun to reach a height where they were blocking the light from shining into the neighbors yard. The neighbor cut the tree, without calling me (reference a couple of other threads to see how I feel about people cutting trees on my property). So, even though years and years had passed, there was no reason for anyone to complain. Only when the trees had time to grow did the mistake of the utility come to light (pun intended) and the problem with the mislocated light presented itself. It took longer than 7 years for the problem to even be recognized.

    Believe it or not, even when the neighbor, their customer, who has paid untold thousands in monthly charges to keep this light on since 1976 or so, called and asked to move the light, THE WEENIE STILL MADE THE EASEMENT ARGUMENT and refused to move the light! Then they wanted $1,200 dollars from the guy for another pole, even though it is stated right on their website, under "Outdoor Lighting" that "Wood Pole Included." Unbelievable.

    So, my attorney weighed in. He informed the utility they had 2 problems: 1 - the original easement was signed by the wrong property owner. Had the utility verified the property line, they never would have put the pole or the light on another's property; they would have put it in the customer's yard, so that was a mistake that needed to be corrected. And 2 - the circumstances would not allow for a successful prescriptive easement claim because, although many years had passed, the growth of a red cedar is such that the problem did not present itself until the tree had reached the height of the light, and that took more than 7 OR 20 years to present itself.

    So, just as my attorney explained, circumstances other than passage of time often weigh in more heavily in these cases. In other words, don't assume just because you have been using a piece of property (in this case, the utility was using our property for another customer's light) for more than 7 years or 20 years, don't think you are going to be able to successfully argue a prescriptive easement. As this experience illustrates, many other factors come into play and passage of time and use of property, thankfully, does not guarantee you anything!

    I and my family have always been cooperative and more than accommodating with the utility in the past. With the residential growth that has occurred around our farm, I know the utility has needed and appreciated our cooperation many times. So, in the end, after making the bogus prescriptive easement claim, threatening to make their customer pay big bucks to move the pole or the light, threatening court, etc. what did the utility do? THEY PUT A LONG ENOUGH BRACKET ON THE POLE SO THAT THE LIGHT STRETCHES OVER INTO THE NEIGHBORS YARD EXACTLY AS I SUGGESTED FROM DAY ONE! lol! Could I have made them move the pole? Certainly. Unlike the utility legal dept., I'm not a weenie. Let's do what is easiest, cheapest, and most effective to solve the problem. Neighbor still has his light and now it's even in his yard where he wants it; utility still has their free money rolling in for the stupid light; trees can GROW. One may have to be topped when it gets near the bracket, but I'm fine with that. See "not a weenie" above.

    Now, what did the bogus legal arguments accomplish for the utility? Well, they GUARANTEED that they will get NO easy going, agreeable cooperation from I or my family or my farm in the future that they have always gotten in the past. We were always cooperative because we said, "one day we may need a little favor" and the utility managers always said "and you'll get it." Well, their word is worthless, or at least it's worthless to the litigious weenie, so no more cooperation. And when those situations arise (been running about every 2-5 years), and they wonder why we aren't as cooperative as we have been in the past, I will certainly be reminding them, by name, of their little litigious weenie they have on staff.

    In the end though, score this one: Common Sense 1, Prescriptive Easement 0

    All's well that ends well. The weenie made it a 2 week pain with lawyers and legal threats, but while I still hate outdoor lights, I respect my neighbor's desire to have one, and this is probably the ONLY outdoor light I will ever get any enjoyment from, as I do enjoy seeing my original solution in place.

    OK. There's the whole drama. Hope it helps someone else, or you at least get a laugh.

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