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  1. #1
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    Default Water Meter is Shared by Two Houses

    My question involves an easement in the state of: Arkansas

    My uncle died 3 months ago. For at least 20 years before his death, the water provided for his home was piped in from a T-connection that branched off of the water line going to my house.These are two separate deeded estates, his and mine, that are right next to each other. His place never had a water meter---we just split the bill every month, no problems, for years.

    Upon his death, his estate was of course inherited by his daughter, who decided to use it as a rental property. This puts me in the position of providing water for her tenants, and maintaining the line to her rental. I've already had to address and fix leaks, caused largely by tenant carelessness, several times. Since the water comes from my meter, if I don't stay on top of this, I'm afraid I will have a water bill some month for hundreds of dollars due to a broken line that no one tells me about.

    Am I legally obligated to keep providing water to this home? I would like the new owner to install her own line and meter, but she says she can't afford it. Also, if she installs a new line and meter, am I obligated to give her a utility easement across my place? Any advice is appreciated. Thank you.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Water Meter is Shared by Two Houses

    Quote Quoting Familiarcat
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    Am I legally obligated to keep providing water to this home? I would like the new owner to install her own line and meter, but she says she can't afford it. Also, if she installs a new line and meter, am I obligated to give her a utility easement across my place? Any advice is appreciated. Thank you.
    You are not legally obligated to provide water to the neighboring house. In fact, it is probably illegal (municipal or water company codes) to be doing what you have been doing.

    You can force the issue by calling the water company and informing them of the situation if that is what you choose to do. You can also inform the new owner that you will be turning off the water at a certain date if she doesn't want to cooperate.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Water Meter is Shared by Two Houses

    Thank you so much. A man at the water department told me that I am not obligated to grant a utility easement across my place, as there has never been one in the past. I have been reluctant to turn off the water, as the house is occupied, but I feel that I have no choice, in order to protect myself.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Water Meter is Shared by Two Houses

    Quote Quoting Familiarcat
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    A man at the water department told me that I am not obligated to grant a utility easement across my place, as there has never been one in the past.
    Were the matter to go to court, depending on the full facts, the neighboring property may be able to establish an easement. See, e.g., Diener v. Ratterree, 57 Ark. App. 314, 945 S.W.2d 406 (1997). The electrical utility, though, is not going to litigate that for the neighboring home, and I'm also skeptical that they would want to branch the neighboring property off of your water line (which is presumably sized for a single home) unless it was difficult to impossible to run an independent water line for that home.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Water Meter is Shared by Two Houses

    It is quite likely that a shared use by mutual agreement does NOT rise to a prescriptive easement .

    It is rather likely that a shared meter runs afoul of public utility regulation and or local codes...but it may not be necessary to dig thru same.

    As a practical matter you may hold the trump card ..IF Sis fails to reach a written shared agreement and $$ to your satisfaction ...Plan B if she doesn't like your way is to cut the line on your property?

    So far nobody has addressed an easement of necessity ...and that's speculative for now.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Water Meter is Shared by Two Houses

    Quote Quoting HRinDEVON
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    It is quite likely that a shared use by mutual agreement does NOT rise to a prescriptive easement.
    It is very possible that if there was unity of ownership at the time the second house was constructed, more so if there was also unity of title, that there is an easement by implication for the rear house to obtain its water via the front lot. I'm not going to worry too much about that in the abstract; we don't have the facts to analyze the issue so there's not much point in coming up with abstruse analyses that may have nothing to do with reality. I would start by seeing what the utility company has to say about the issue and its resolution.
    Quote Quoting HRinDEVON
    So far nobody has addressed an easement of necessity ...and that's speculative for now.
    An easement by necessity allows for a route of access where one did not previously exist. Here, there's an existing water line, and the proper focus would be on whether there is an easement by implication. Were a court to find an easement, not only could it order water service restored over the neighboring parcel, it could award damages for the period of time during which water service was interrupted.

    If you are thinking about unilateral action, I suggest that you cover your posterior by first consulting a real estate lawyer and getting a clear legal opinion based upon the full facts and title history that supports your having a legal right to cut off the water supply.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Water Meter is Shared by Two Houses

    this is not just about a water line....it's about diversion of water AFTER it passes thru my meter!

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Water Meter is Shared by Two Houses

    When did this become your water meter?

    The way the plumbing works, in simple terms, is that the water line runs from the water main to house number 1 where it connects to the meter, and then the water runs in two directions -- with one line leading into the first house and the second running to the second house. The water runs all the way from the main to the property line of the second house.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Water Meter is Shared by Two Houses

    perhaps easy to resolve by checking the service or billing address of record...you are correct ..the point made by OP is not crystal clear nor is the physical place of the meter crystal clear as to who owns that space.

    I am not up on your local,codes or laws...around me the water company is responsible for issues up to the meter..and taps or non code diversions past the meter often fall into property owner hands

    Ask you local water utility to address who is accountable for what.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Water Meter is Shared by Two Houses

    The issue is about running a new waterline from the main in the street to the house. The properties are next to each other (not front and back lots).

    These are two separate deeded estates, his and mine, that are right next to each other.
    There is really no easement to argue about.

    It's much cheaper to run a water line from the house to the street then it is to litigate to establish an easement through OP's property when the neighbor has road frontage.

    perhaps easy to resolve by checking the service or billing address of record...you are correct ..the point made by OP is not crystal clear nor is the physical place of the meter crystal clear as to who owns that space.
    What is not clear? OP said that the neighbor's water is supplied from his water after it is metered. They used to split the bill. Doesn't that suggest that the water for both houses is running through one meter (belonging to OP)?

    ---we just split the bill every month, no problems, for years.

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