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Can we force a shared well agreement or make our neighbors pay us for electricity for a shared well that is on our property?

Olympia, WA |

We bought a home three years ago. The deed included a statement "this property has a shared well with next lot." The pump house and well is on our property and connected to our electrical meter. The neighbors said they'd paid the previous owners $15 a month and we agreed on that amount until we researched it further. I have years of documentation of them not paying us on time for their water per our agreements and a letter from them refusing to pay our requested $20 a month after the electricity went up significantly. They haven't paid us in five months now. I have requested payment in writing several times and have asked them to meet with us to create a shared well agreement, which they will not. Do I have any recourse? Can I shut their water off legally without an agreement?

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Attorney answers 1


Do a thorough title search on the deeds to both properties. What agreement was on the record at the time that the well was originally built? They may well have had an agreement, and it SHOULD have been recorded at the registry of deeds and made what is called a "covenant that runs with the land." So, I would not do anything until you have an answer to that question. You may be able to find a title company that could do this research for you for not big bucks.

Then, if there is a covenant, read it carefully and comply with its terms.

If there is no covenant, then you should be well within your rights to give the neighbors some sort of advance notice in writing, return receipt requested, giving them adequate time to either pay the arrearage and 1/2 the fair value of the maintenance of the well, or make other arrangements for their water supply. I'd give them 6 months.

Give them follow-up notices. If they do nothing, then check with a land use attorney. There are some quirky rules regarding water rights and land use that only a local attorney will understand and even s/he will have to double check most of them. Get a clearance from an expert in that area of the law before you do anything.

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