Here's my potential problem:
My cable signal, both for TV and internet was very bad. I phoned the
cable company (Comcast), and the tech, after doing some readings on his
meter said that I had a very low signal, almost no signal, and traced it
back to the cable company's box down the street. He said that they
would have to replace the underground cable from that box to my house.
They would have to cut thru a neighbor's lawn and my lawn to get the
cable to my house. They will wait until all the utility companies come
out and map out the underground work so they don't do any damage. All
that sounds reasonable. Here's where I don't know how it goes.
My neighbor and I both have underground sprinkler systems. I have 8
sprinkler heads on that side of the house, my neighbor probably has
double that since it's his entire front lawn, and the cable would be
installed across his entire front lawn.
The cable company, as they make their cuts in the ground to lay the new
cable cannot possibly miss all the underground sprinkler hoses. There
is likely to be some, or a lot of damage. We know where the sprinkler
heads are, but we can't possibly map out the underground water lines.
Suppose that they cut my neighbor's line? Are they responsible to
repair it? It's so very likely that they will slash someone's
underground water line.
I like my neighbor. We don't have a relationship or anything, we're just
people who live next to each other, but have respect for each other's
property. I wouldn't want to see him have a hassle over this.
The fact that the cable is out is not my fault, and it's not my
responsibility to repair it. I'm not getting charged for the repair,
since the cable company has to maintain it's network, but what about the
damage that they do?
Will they say it's not their fault because I can't show where those
underground water lines are?
How likely are they to deal with my neighbor, if his sprinkler water
lines are cut and damaged? He's a totally innocent bystander here.
How likely am I to get compensated when they do damage to my lines?
Around here, they have right-of-ways, for utilities. They run through the
adjoining properties, 5' on each side of the property line, this gives them
room to get equipment in, if needed.
My cable was run, then about a week later they came to "bury" it. It's only
about 2" under the surface, a machine cut the sod and placed the cable. You
couldn't even tell they cut it, except for the grass was pressed down from
the tires on the machine.
I think you're making a big issue, over a non-issue. But, it was based on
the "techs" information. To my knowledge, cable companies are not allowed
to run cable where ever they please.
Same in my neighborhood. cable, Phone, Electric, Gas pipe/water pipe all
run in certain way. "One call does it" can mark all the cables and pipes.
Don't know about sprinkler. I guess if they damage it, they'll fix it
but they do this all the time, so they'd know how to what to do.
Thats been my experience as well. The line will follow the street or
sidewalk, then maybe along a property line, then finally make a
bee-line for your house across your property. It would be odd to place
a sprinkler so close to a street or sidewalk, no? And if they did, I
think it would be the sprinkler installer's fault for putting lines on
a right of way.
So you probably have only your own sprinklers to worry about.
I'm the original poster, and I appreciated the responses.
To respond to some of the posts:
I don't know how deep my sprinkler water lines are, and I can't speak
for my neighbor's lines, but I remember seeing my lines put in, and it's
at least over a foot deep.
Part of the problem, is that my neighbor has a 20' wide driveway, and
the cable guy said they need a certain machine so they can run the cable
UNDER the driveway. They really can't get it here any other way.
That also means that the cable won't be an inch or 2 under the ground,
at least not near the driveway.
If the cable company's box on the street was on my property, the cable
guy told me he could have just run a line himself instead of waiting for
the big boys with the big machinery.
I'm on a residential paved street, with a paved sidewalk, and some front
sprinkler heads are located next to the paving, which means that my
water lines run directly across the entire lawn. We don't know exactly
where any of the water lines are. Nobody does.
I know I'll have to ask the cable company about their liability, but it
just seems crappy to have to put a neighbor thru the hassle if there is
a problem ruining their sprinkler lines.
Our home owner association requires a contractor to have a type of
Bond (not sure the exact name) to cover potential damage to a
neighbor's property. This is not always the case, it depends on the
type of work. For example a crane may be needed to set large
landscape trees or a spa, etc.. into a back yard. If something
happens that damages the next door house, property, etc., the Bond is
there to cover cost of the damage.
A utility company is pretty much required, as part of their agreement
with the communities in which they provide service, to repair any
damage they cause during installations or repairs. If there are
complaints, that's why there are Public Utility Commissions.
About 10 years ago, got a call from the phone company. Seems
like several people in the neighborhood (not us) were having
problems with their phone lines. Hanging a TDR on the phone
wires, the phone company techs decided that the problem was
a badly done splice in the multi-line phone cable in our BACK
yard. They dug a 2ft wide by 4ft long hole about 4ft deep and
camped out in our back yard for 2 days fixing the cable.
Fixed everything up better than new when they were done.
Packed the fill dirt well so it didn't settle later. Fixed the
sprinkler line they broke. Sodded, not seeded the dirt - the
new grass looked better than the old.
If you have specific concerns, talk to the cable company.
Seems to me if there not willing to repair any piping they damage then they
should not be digging up peoples property. I'm sure the cable Co. has been
down this road many times. Call them and ask, it's that simple.
I really don't know the law in your part of the world. but it seems
very strange that a cable company could simply walk onto private
property and run a cable wherever they wanted with no regard to damage
Lets imagine for a moment that they do run the cable across your
neighbours lawn and cause no permanent damage. What happens in 2 -3
years time when your neighbour sells up and moves on and the new owner
decides to extend his sprikler system. In the process he rips up the
cable. Who is resposible?
In any case their is a cable already in service. Surely if they
replace it they will simply pull it through the same conduit. That's
what happens here.
You have virtually NOTHING to worry about.
The digger is responsible for any damage they cause, whether it is to YOUR
property or that of others.
The digger is responsible for obtaining all appropriate "locates" (locations
of underground utilities).
As for the digger, they may have several concerns: Are they replacing a
"main" cable or simply a "drop wire" (buried service wire)? Since the tech
said that, were it not for the fact that he would have to cross your
neighbor's property, he could have laid a temporary wire, I suspect it is a
drop wire. If so, and your neighbor is particularly savvy, he could DENY them
access to his property if their plan is to plow OUTSIDE of an easement, if
there even IS one. Drops are frequently run ANYWHERE and everywhere - and
often OUTSIDE of an easement.
Burying under a driveway is no big deal. They will simply BORE under it using
the old-fashioned method (boring rods and "Roto-Witch") or the better - and
more expensive - technology: Directional boring. With the latter, they could
bore under/across your neighbor's lawn AND yours and never even get close to
any sprinkler lines.
Since virtually all sprinkler system owners have NO idea where their lines
run, and are unwilling to give an official "all clear" to use a plow
(vibratory lawn plow), the drop is placed MANUALLY using the "sod split"
method. This places the wire VERY shallow (2-3 inches is "deep") and is often
very hard on the wire.
Having run a plow for seven years AND using the sod split method of placing
AND having repaired a cut sprinkler line, if I had to replace a wire, I would
use the PLOW and simply (yes, SIMPLY) repair a cut sprinkler line or three.
The drop would be placed appropriately deep (8-10-inches), I would fire-up the
sprinkler system to locate any cuts, dig 'em up and repair them, and be done.
Because of the extra work involved using this method, virtually NO utility
that I can think of uses it - but I would.
On the other hand, if you have the $$, you might offer to PAY for a
directional bore placement (see above) and not worry about anything.
Good luck. I wouldn't worry about it.
I suggest your advice may work where you live, but I suspect that there
are hundreds of variations on this subject depending on where you live.
The OP needs to check their local authorities or their own attorney for
accurate information. In reality they are likely to get a quick accurate
answer from the cable company.
In my area the primary utility lines run in easements that while owned
by me I have little control over. The utilities have the right to dug up
anything in their way any time they want. If that damages something I put
there, that is my tough luck and I might even end up paying them to remove
I don't know what might happen with damage to my property outside the
easement. I suspect it will be my problem on my land, but the cable company
would need to get permission if they want to dig in a part of my neighbor's
yard outside their easement. You laws may be different.
Joseph has presented a very accurate statement for most of the US where
subdivisions and deeds contain what is called an "easement of record". If
your sprinkler heads or lines are constructed in a recorded easement area
the person who placed them there is the one who did it wrong.
Most utility companies try to maintain good customer relations and may try
to avoid or even repair damages but they are not required to do so if the
damage occurs within the easement.
I'll disagree with you on this. Using your analogy, if the water,
electric, phone and cable lines were all within the utility easement,
they could dig up each others lines without worrying about repairs.
I have a petroleum pipeline across my farm. They have a 30' easement
to maintain those pipes. I can build a house or barn or fence on the
easement. House or barn wouldn't be smart but they are required to
compensate me for ANY damages; even on the the easement. They pay for
crop damage caused by testing and repair equipment.
An easement is a contract. It can say whatever the parties agree to.
My electric easement states that if there are no poles on the easement
WITH cables attached for a period of three years, the easement is
abandoned and is forfeited. Part of it has been abandoned.
That agreement was signed in 1936; before underground cable was
popular. If they wanted to go underground now, they would have to get
a new easement. I would likely grant it because I enjoy having
--Andy Asberry recommends NewsGuy--
"easement of record" is a specific legal term that refers in this case to
easements that were granted by the developer as a specific condition of the
utility providing the requested service to the development. Those recorded
easements are then passed along to the property owners at the time of
I think they have gotten a lot more one-sided than there were in 1936.
I won't claim to know what they say or how they apply in all areas. Most
was all I claimed and that was limited to subdivisions.
As for the utilities and each other, they have 15' across the back of my lot
to do their thing for cable and electric. Gas and water are in the front.
I bet they have definite standards about which feet belong to whom.
I have received a notice from the electric company informing me that some of
my plantings might be "at risk" should they need to do certain work. I
ignored it but they have CYA by sending it.
around here (NH) the utilitiy companies are required to have an easment on
the property that they run lines through (if they are underground). That
means that anything the property owner does on that part of the property is
at thier (owners) own risk, and the utility can work with no liability for
damages to items installed on the easment.
who pays for damage to systems on your and your neighbors lots will have to
be worked out between the two of you, but from alegal standpoint, my guess
would be that the owner is responsible for repairing anything that is
damaged - the easment provides a clear indication that that part of the
property is not avialable for permanent development of nay kind, so any
installations are done at the owners risk.... Not vey neighborly, ut thats
'Course, if you neighbor has the same cable company as you, he's probably
going to benefit from the repair too....
On another note:
it is very unlikely that the cable would suddenly go bad. If your conenction
was good, then got bad, what has most likely happened is that your cable
company has oversubscribed the line (this is a common business parcaitce).
that means that they sell more bandwidth than the line can deliver, on the
assumption that not eceryone will be online at the same time. A simple test
would be to log on at a really odd time, and measure your bandwidth (both up
and down). If it is the same as it is during peak times, there is probably a
hardware problem (but once again, not necesarily the wire). If the
throughput is better at off-peak times (like 2AM), the wire is fine.
Many cable companies will try to present the most inconvenient (nad
expensive) repair possible instead of upgrading their infrastructure. If
they can convince a customer to simply deal with the poor performance )or
even go to another provider), they don't have to make expensive (more
expensive than the wire replacement) infrastructure upgrades....... If you'e
got a friend that is net-savvy, have him/her hook up with the provider, ask
to see the detailed diagnostics, and make sure that they aren't yanking your
chain..... A quick call to your PUC or cable oversight group might also shed
Dump cable and go satellite. Comcast in my town wants $82 /month for
almost basic . I got Dish networkfor$60 month 3 tvs and 180 channels
icluding encore andsome movie channels. Just say no to cable.
I wouldn;t waste my time worrying about this, checking easements, or
anyting else. Cable companies pull cable every day. If they damage
something, they will either fix it or pay to get it fixed. And what
are we talking about here? A cut lawn sprinkler pipe? That can be
quickly fixed in 20 mins with a spade, a short piece of pipe, two barb
fittings, and clamps. The less involved you get with the whole thing
the better off you will be. Start talking to your neighbor and you may
be in for a lot more trouble.
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