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Potential liability of a sewer easement on a neighboring property

Portland, OR |

hi, i am buying a home on a hill and the sewer line (for gravity reasons) had to run behind my house, down the hill and thru about 15ft parallel to the neighbor below to connect at the street. The title report shows an easement created in 1997 for this. The builder who built this home created another sewer line easement in 2013 as well since it was a new sewer line that was installed. Since i will be the owner of this easement, what is my potential problems if the neighbor starts excavating their property and breaks the line? What is the liability if the sewer line breaks for any reason and it disturbs their property (like flooding their yard)? I understand the need for why it was created but how does that protect me in the long run from a neighbor breaking it? no maint. agrmt

Attorney Answers 2


  1. Let's start with some definitions. The property that gets to use the easement is called the dominant tenament or tenant. The person who has the easement on their property is the servient tenament.
    A sewer easement is quite common and they are usually non-exclusive. That means the property owner can use the property, and even grant additional easements so long as they do not interfere with the use of your easement.
    You are responsible for ordinary maintenance. If the pipe brakes, or needs to be replaced, its on you. The servient tenamtant cannot do anything to interfere with your use. If they do, they pay to repair. If they are out digging a trench and the break your pipe, they have to fix it.

    DISCLAIMER The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the educated opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might possibly change. Attorney is licensed to practice law only in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Responses are based solely on Pennsylvania law unless stated otherwise. When answering questions on AVVO, attorneys are prohibited from directly soliciting business. Don't take this as an indication of lack of interest. James S. Tupitza


  2. I am not clear on the interrelations ship of the two easements, but the starting point would be to read the easement agreement(s). The document may contains specific provisions about liability, maintenance and other things.

    Absent something in the agreement, Oregon law allows the property owner to use the property over and around your easement (the "non-exclusive" concept), but the other property owner may not unreasonably interfere with the easement. If the other property owner causes damage, most likely it would be his responsibility.

    On the other hand, you would most likely have a duty to maintain the line, and if it shows signs of leakage or deterioration, you would need to repair it. I don't think, in most circumstances, you would have liability for an unanticipated catastrophic failure.

    This comment is general in nature and is not intended as legal advice. It does not create an attorney client relationship and obviously is not confidential. You should contact an attorney in your area who can review with you all of the relevant facts and give you specific legal advice.

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