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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2009

    Default Public Utility Wants Easement

    What should I do? What do I need to know?

    The public utility wants me to sign a Right of Way agreement to let them put a sewer line down the backside of my property in West Virginia. I own one acre of land with a trailer on it. The land that they want to use is a dry creek bed that borders the back edge of my property. They want a 40' temporary easement to lay the sewer line, then a 20' permanent easement for 279' of my land.

    They are offering me a free hookup, valued at $250. So it seems to me that I should expect something more than $250 but I don't have any idea of what I should ask for.

    What kinds of things should I be aware of? What's this going to do to my property value? Is there a law that says they can just do it anyway if I don't agree?

    Help please! I don't know what to do.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006

    Default Re: Public Utility Wants Easement

    they very likely could force the easement onto you if you do not agree. That would require them to sue you in court and pay you for the value of the loss.

    Depending on what the limitation of use of the easement are for you would affect the value of the easement.

    In most easements, for all practical purposes, you lose control of the property. In some cases, you can do nothing that would restrict access to the easement holder in any way.

    If such in your case, I would suggest the value of such a strip of land of the size used would be an appropriate value for the easement.

    Ultimately, it is in your hands at this point. If you do not agree to the easement at the offer presented, it would have to go to court and the courts will seek an appraisal for the value of the land. If this happens though, they could take title to the land rather than simply requiring an easement. It would be up to whomever is seeking the action to sue for whatever they choose to sue for.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2009

    Default Re: Public Utility Wants Easement

    What county? I am in WV as well. The cost of litigation and a the cost of a delay would be more that $250. I would not sign anything without knowing the value of the land. 20 by 279 is 5580 sq feet. The value of your land is a function of the easement. Once you give the easement you can never build within it again- that has value.

    An acre of flat land in West Virginia could be $1,000 or $100,000 depending on location. So for example if fair market value of an acre in Morgantown is $10,000 and the easement is 5580 sq feet or .128 of an acre (43,560 sq ft) the value is $1280.

    This does not include remediation of the surface or legal costs if you had to go to court. So $250 does seem rather low. Nothing stops you from giving them a counter offer of say $10,000.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2009

    Default Re: Public Utility Wants Easement

    Thanks JK and Mudpie.

    I'm not against giving them the easement since the land is at the back of my property and it's unusable in it's current condition (it's a creekbed that's about 4' deeper than the rest of the land) but I just would like to get a reasonable value and I don't think $250 sounds very reasonable.

    The land is in Tucker County and I paid $26,500 for it a year ago. By my calculations they want at least 5580 sq. ft. (279' x 20') which works out to be 11.7% of my property (47,661 sq. ft.). I'm not sure this is the total amount of land they want because they only sent me Plan Sheet #5, which shows about half of my land, but the agreement mentions Plan Sheets #3 and #5. So I've got to get a copy of plan sheet #3 to see what else is involved.

    I don't want to spend a lot of money on an attorney if I can get the utility to give me an amount that sounds reasonable, I'm just not sure what would be a reasonable amount to ask for. If I use the 11.7% times what I paid for the property that would come out to $3100. Maybe I should ask for $5000?

    The agreement doesn't say anything about future use of the land other than they (with my agreement) can remove trees as necessary to maintain the right-of-way, but I would assume that I couldn't ever build anything on the easement.

    PS: the agreement says they'll regrade and reseed to the same general condition it was in prior to the construction. LOL, does that mean they'll turn it back into a ditch? An yes, believe it or not, I've got an acre of FLAT land in WV.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2007

    Default Re: Public Utility Wants Easement

    If you force the utility to appropriate the easement in court, the damages to be paid to you will not be determined by negotiation, but by a professional appraiser, whose testimony will usually settle the issue.

    As you cannot put a trailer, a building, a garden, etc. in a dry creek bed, it will be valued differently than land which can support those things. In addition, a sewer easement is rarely valued at the full value of the land itself, but only a percentage of it since it is not a fee take, but a property right of less value.

    Finally, I am amazed that no one has mentioned the increased value of your lot with a sewer tap added. The appraiser will bring that up, too. It has to make your property significantly more valuable.

    Twenty years ago a sewer tap in my town was $80. Today it is $5000.

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