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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2019
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    5

    Default Power Company Installed Transformer and Underground Line Without a Signed Easement

    My question involves real estate located in the State of: South Dakota

    Construction of a multi-family housing development began two weeks ago in our residential neighborhood. It's being built two lots over from our property line. Yesterday we received a utility easement contract in the mail from the local power company for a 10' wide path across our 125' property to run an underground line.

    After we read the contract, my husband and I decided not to sign because the easement would block our plans to build a larger garage and add any structures or improvements that would encumber the 10' wide path or prevent heavy equipment from being able to access it. (We purchased our house and the adjacent property for the specific purpose of building a larger garage and workshop. If we can't, the property will no longer suit our needs.)

    Because we're doing some remodeling work to the house, we've been living elsewhere for the past couple weeks. When we stopped at the property a few hours after we received the easement contract in the mail, we discovered the power company had installed a pad transformer in our yard earlier in the day. There's no trench. However, we're not sure if they used a trenchless method to bury the line. Their heavy truck left deep grooves and tire impressions all over our lawn because the sod is very soft.

    What happens when a utility company moves forward with their plans before an easement is even signed? We'd be happy if they removed the transformer and any underground lines they may have installed. Is this easier said than done?

    There are other options to bring power to the new housing development. Running through our property and our neighbor's property is a straight shot and the least expensive route.

    Thanks for your feedback.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
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    7,056

    Default Re: Power Company Installed Transformer and Underground Line Without a Signed Easemen

    Quote Quoting SpicedRum
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    What happens when a utility company moves forward with their plans before an easement is even signed? We'd be happy if they removed the transformer and any underground lines they may have installed. Is this easier said than done?
    They sent you a contract and you refused to sign it. Did you communicate with the utility? Did they offer you compensation for the easement? Or did you just do nothing?

    The problem you face is that utilities that provide a public access to their services have the power of eminent domain. That is that they can take property or easements as long as they justly compensate the landowner. This is done through the courts and the South Dakota legislature has granted this power to them.

    So if you refuse to sign the contract, the utility can sue you and take the easement. That would of course cost you thousands in legal fees to fight the taking.

    It would be my guess that this is not the first time this utility has run into this situation and they already know what the ultimate conclusion will be so absent your signature, the just proceeded.

    You should consult with an attorney that handles eminent domain takings because it is a complicated litigation.

    Here is a SD case you can read to understand what could happen.

    And here is the law. Pay particular attention to 21-35-8 in case you decide to sell your property rather than signing (or negotiating) the contract. This is a Lis pendens (which is Latin for "suit pending). It will attach to your deed at the registrars office and anyone interested in your property will know that a suit is pending.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
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    18,340

    Default Re: Power Company Installed Transformer and Underground Line Without a Signed Easemen

    Quote Quoting SpicedRum
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    What happens when a utility company moves forward with their plans before an easement is even signed? We'd be happy if they removed the transformer and any underground lines they may have installed. Is this easier said than done?
    Not gonna happen. For one thing there may already be an easement assigned when your property was originally platted. Did you check the county records for the plat? This is something you should have figured out before you bought the property.

    For another, the utility company is likely entitled to the easement by statute.

    The utility company doesn't have to sue you if you don't sign. It's already done. They don't have to do anything to keep it done. It's up to you to sue to get it undone and that would cost you thousands in legal fees and you'd lose.

    By the way, there's no reason that heavy equipment (graders, loaders) can't cross over the easement. You can also put a driveway over it and the odds are in your favor that the utility company won't ever have to have you tear it out. What you don't want to risk is putting your building on it.

    One other thing, you should check your deed restrictions. I found many homes last year that had deed restrictions on the number of garage spaces that the property could have. I did a lot of looking before I found one where I could build a 3 car garage in my back yard.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
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    Default Re: Power Company Installed Transformer and Underground Line Without a Signed Easemen

    There may very well be an easement attached to the road for utility purposes. But why would the utility even ask for a signed contract if they already had the easement?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
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    4,301

    Default Re: Power Company Installed Transformer and Underground Line Without a Signed Easemen

    Quote Quoting budwad
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    There may very well be an easement attached to the road for utility purposes. But why would the utility even ask for a signed contract if they already had the easement?
    Without knowing everything in the contract there is no way to even guess.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2019
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    5

    Default Re: Power Company Installed Transformer and Underground Line Without a Signed Easemen

    UPDATE:

    For clarification, the proposed underground easement cuts across the center of our backyard from left to right. There are no roads. They drove their heavy truck all over our lawn.

    I spoke with the utility company this morning. We also met with one of their local reps at our property. As we expected, there is no easement on our property. This is why the utility company sent us a contract to sign. The local contractor assumed this had already been taken care of, so they proceeded with the work without confirmation. They buried the line and installed a transformer box on a pad. All of this happened yesterday, before we received the paperwork that was mailed to us.

    They've presented us with the option of having the underground easement moved to the rear of our property (30' further back) and moving the transformer box to the other side of our property line. This won't interfere with our building plans, so it seems like an agreeable solution. I'm going to ask them to draw up a new contract based on the new location. We'll have our attorney review it before anything is signed.

    They offered $500 for the easement. Can anyone recommend a way to calculate a fair value? We're talking about a space 125' x 10'. We believe having our property burdened by an easement is worth more.

    Thanks to everyone for their feedback.

    Quote Quoting budwad
    View Post
    There may very well be an easement attached to the road for utility purposes. But why would the utility even ask for a signed contract if they already had the easement?

    After speaking with the utility company by phone and meeting with a representative on our property, they've confirmed there is no easement. The contractor jumped the gun on burying the line and installing a transformer. They admitted their mistake.

    A road isn't involved. The line was buried across the center of our 125' wide backyard.

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