How to handle request from new neighbors

May 5, 2013

I don't know if this question belongs here, but I couldn't find anywhere else to ask it. We built our home 17 years ago. Our septic leach field is in the neighbor’s front yard adjacent to their own field. The easement for this is shown in the original subdivision plan filed with the county before we even bought the property. The septic tanks themselves are in our yard, only the leach field is in the easement. There have been three previous owners of that house and on each deed it specifies that there are restrictions and easements on file (there is also a road easement on the property as well as restrictive covenants for the subdivision). There has never been any question about this before. The house was sold earlier this week and yesterday we received a letter from the buyer’s agent saying that their attorney could not locate an easement agreement, so he drew one up that they are requesting we sign and pay for the right to use the easement. The dollar amount is insignificant, but that is not the issue. We looked up their deed online and it says nothing about restrictions or easements even though the seller’s deed did. We also looked up the plat online and the easement is clearly marked. The document they want us to sign reads as though these new owners are granting us the "right" to leave our septic field on their property. Isn't that what the easement marked on the plat already does? It also incorrectly states that our septic tank access is on their property when it is nowhere near it. When the tanks need to be pumped there is no need whatsoever to go on their property at all. We don’t want to start off on the wrong foot with new neighbors, but we don’t feel that we need this new easement agreement when we already have an easement, plus it is incorrect anyway in stating that our septic tank is there. What do we do? They have already closed on the house though they have not moved in yet.

Comments (57)

  • Hollyclyff

    So what is the point of having an easement recorded with the county if we have to spend money on an attorney and go to court to defend it. And possibly lose? Seriously? The easement was in existence before we even bought the land. It was put in place by the developer and recorded by the county. Does this mean I could go to court and remove the utility and road easements on my property since they are recorded on the same document?

    Well, I guess there is no hope for any civil relationship with these new people if we are forced to spend money to defend what is legally ours already. Really ticks me off! I'd like to know what they're end game is.

  • chispa

    Send the neighbor and their lawyer a copy of the documents you have showing the easements, etc with a comment saying that you are surprised that the lawyer and title insurance didn't find this themselves. Maybe their lawyer missed it and is trying to cover his behind!

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  • Tony2Toes

    Their "end game" is likely that they got conditional title insurance, requiring them to prove the easement or not have complete title insurance free and clear. If they wanted anything else they would ask for more than $10 to grant you the easement (again). This likely popped up the day before closing as a surprise and they chose to keep the close date rather than force the issue with the sellers and/or you.....which would have pushed their closing and possibly hurt their financing or the deal.

    More than likely, if you have your attorney show them your pre-existing documentation, this will evaporate. If you feel brave enough to go it alone, show it yourself and tell them they are mistaken. I would rather than getting an attorney.....but I'd hire one quickly if they press the issue.

    What do you have to lose?

  • azmom

    Do NOT respond, leave it to your attorney.

    You don't know if it is from the new neighbors.

    If records are as clear and open as you mentioned, sounds to me their realtor is not very competent. May be their lawyer just wants to prove his worth by making a hollow fuss.

    Hand it to lawyer would leave a better chance to have a friendly relationship with your new neighbors.

    This post was edited by azmom on Mon, May 6, 13 at 0:38

  • mudhoney

    Holly, if you get a referral, you should be able to talk with a real estate attorney, and have him draft a response for not much money. Like maybe a couple of hundred or less. This is a small price to pay to keep things on the up and up and protect your house investment. Tony2 toes sounds like he might have a good idea of what is going on here. But I would feel a lot more comfortable, if I was you, having a sit down with a real estate (important that it is a RE) attorney to get your ducks in a row first. Go in with a positive attitude that you can iron this out easily. I do think they could have handled this a lot better.

  • camlan

    Right now, you don't know what's prompted this. The seller could have lied to the buyers, something went wrong with the title search, or, maybe, the buyers *are* out to get you. But right now, you don't know.

    I think you could risk one reply to them without getting a lawyer involved. The absolute safest route is to get a lawyer now, because he/she could stop you from saying anything that might come back to haunt you later. But for the first reply, I think you can go it alone.

    Strive for a tone of mild confusion and puzzlement. Do not respond in any way that could seem angry or hostile. Treat this as just informing the lawyer about the facts as you know them, colored with mild puzzlement that the facts about the easement were not already known to him and the buyers.

    And, just the fact that your access to the system is on your property means that the agreement, if it were to be necessary, would need to be rewritten to take that fact into account. And it means that they are getting the wrong information from somewhere. It would be interesting to find out where.

    "Dear Attorney for Our New Neighbors:

    We have received your letter of May 1, 2013.

    The easement for our leach field has been in place since [year], prior to our purchase of the property.

    Please see on-line [document names] at [web addresses]. Also, we have enclosed hard copies of [document names/dates] clearly showing the easement.

    Also, please note that the access to our septic tank is located on our property *here* and is not located on Neighbor's property.

    We hope this clears up any questions you or your clients may have about the easement."

    Pointing them to the correct documents should clear things up. If it doesn't, and the attorney comes back asking you to sign the same agreement or a new one based on the information you've given him, then I do think that you need to consult with a lawyer.

  • Hollyclyff

    Last night we went ahead and did basically what camlan suggests only we sent it to the new owners since that was the contact info we were given in the letter. I hope that is not a big problem. I can't see how we could have said anything that would come back to haunt us, since we merely pointed them to the documents online along with attaching a pdf copy of the same documents. I guess we will wait and see what response we get. The fact that these people are even allowed to cause a financial burden on us when we have done absolutely nothing at all wrong is so unfair. Even people arrested for murder are allowed a publicly paid attorney, but we have to foot the bill if someone just wants to be a jerk. All my research of the past two days makes it appear that it would be impossible for them to terminate or block our easement. Especially since we haven't abused or misused it in any way in 17 years.
    And I'm so disappointed because I was really hoping we could be friends, or at least friendly, with these people.

  • graywings123

    And I'm so disappointed because I was really hoping we could be friends, or at least friendly, with these people.

    I think you should remain more open-minded about your neighbors. Nothing has occurred yet that should make you think that you can't be friends or at least friendly.

  • Hollyclyff

    That depends on the response we get back from them. But I have a really hard time believing they simply couldn't find the easement. Which leaves me wondering what they're really trying to accomplish with this.

  • lyfia

    I know you don't like the feeling of having to spend money on an attorney, but you don't know if the buyers are the ones that initiated this or just doing what their attorney told them as he is trying to earn their money. I would keep an open mind that ya'll can still be friendly.

    Now on another note, if you were a buyer in a similar situation and your attorney told you there was nothing about the easement or anything describing its use wouldn't you be wanting to make sure everything was clear and in order before you purchased something that potentially could be a problem in your yard in the future. Consider you know nothing about the people that live there or any potential future buyers of that property either. Even if you met those that live there and find there would be no issue, wouldn't you want to protect yourself from any future potential issues.

    Now if there is a document that clearly specifies what the rules for the easement is then this is probably not an issue, but just a plat wouldn't do it in my area. There needs to be some usage information filed as well. This would then protect both parties.

    If their attorney keeps pushing for the agreement then I would suggest you hire an attorney to look over it and ask the buyers to re-imburse you for the expense if they insist on having a new agreement.

  • camlan

    I agree with Lyfia. There's every chance the buyers are just clearing up loose ends--the loose ends that they see.

    I see what they are doing as very similar to a new owner getting a survey of the land they have just bought (or are about to buy). It can save tons of problems down the line.

    When my dad moved into the last house he bought, the neighbor on one side told Dad the property line between the houses was on Dad's side of a row of bushes. Dad thought the neighbor knew what he was talking about and didn't argue. The neighbor kept the bushes neat and trimmed throughout the years.

    Then the neighbors had to ask Dad's permission to put up a fence. They wanted the "ugly" side of the fence to face Dad's property, which is against code in the area, so they had to get Dad to sign off on it. Something about the request sparked Dad's doubts, and he got the land surveyed.

    Turns out Dad owned the strip of land the bushes were on, not the neighbors. The strip of land was 4 feet wide. It might not have been a huge amount, but the land in question was a second, unbuilt-on house lot adjacent to the house lot where Dad's house was. Losing those 4 feet of land meant the difference between being able to see that lot separately as a building lot, or it being too small according to code to build on. (After Dad died, we sold the lot separately for 3.5 times what Dad paid for the house and both lots. It made a difference.)

    Dad agreed to the fence, but pointed out the correct lot lines. The neighbors had to get their own survey. It was discovered that a lot marker in their yard had been moved and needed to be moved back to where it belong.

    Thus started a feud on the neighbors' part. They put up the fence. They also did not talk to Dad for the 7 years that they remained in their house.

    It's always best to clear up this sort of thing early on.

    With any luck, your new neighbors will realize that the easement exists and has existed. Their deed will need to be fixed, but you shouldn't hear any more about this.

    And if they are upset that they purchased land that has an easement they didn't know about (I would be), they will need to deal with the seller and whoever researched the title--not you.

  • kirkhall

    Just a point about the $10 transaction fee, since you seem bothered by it.
    It is a common nominal dollar figure for "free" legal transactions. It makes it a contract (the nominal fee) in the eyes of the court. Sometimes, $1 is used, even by the court, but more often than not, on a recorded document you see the $10 figure.

    Now, I am in process of granting a "temporary construction easement" to the developer developing land to my south. In that temporary easement, this $10 figure is also there. Am I getting more than $10 out of the deal? Yes. But, for the record, the $10 is recorded with the county. And, the person "requesting" the easement "pays" the grantor the fee.

    If, in fact, you don't have a recorded easement (even if it is on the plat documents, but the easement isn't recorded--in my area like someone above mentioned, the plat documents wouldn't be enough) this lawyer is just trying to save you the time and expense of hiring a lawyer to draw up easement document. He's done the work for you. And, it will be legally recorded.

    As "nice" as that is, you then, should get your own lawyer to review the easement to make sure it really is in your interest in the end. Even with a nominal fee paid to the new neighbor and a couple hundred to your own lawyer.

    Part of your fact-finding needs to be--is a recorded easement required in your area or is plat documentation enough.

    And, I agree, this isn't something that you should hold against your neighbor.

  • brickeyee

    "Their deed will need to be fixed, but you shouldn't hear any more about this. "

    It is not uncommon for deed to contain words excepting "such easements and rights of way that may exist."

    In places that allow it, it is just sloppy title searching.

    They searcher should have at least identifies the location in the land records of the easement grant.

    Something is VERY wrong with someones records (you or them).

    I have seen easements NOT appear on the recipient's title, but they always appear on the grantor's title.

    They are the ones giving up some use of their property.
    tread VERY careful here.

    A local RE attorney using their letterhead for a single 'What do you mean?' letter may squelch things instantly.

  • sylviatexas1

    I haven't read every response, so please forgive if I'm repeating.

    I am not an attorney, and nothing in this is intended to be legal advice;
    if you want legal advice, you must consult an attorney.

    This isn't your problem, & anything you sign will give away some of your power, probably a decisive amount of power.

    I'm guessing that the "new" easement curtails your rights, & the $10 is to establish that it's a valid contract (since there's "consideration on both sides").

    The consideration that the new owners are granting is an easement, which means that you agree that the previous easement does not apply.

    & I'd just about bet money that the "new" easement contains limitations or requirements that the existing one does not, & that it gives these new owners powers that they don't have under the existing easement, such as the right to rescind the agreement...

    which would mean that the next letter you get from them could say that you have to move your lateral field.

    Refer the new owners & their attorney to the title company & tell them that you are satisfied with your existing easement & you aren't going to sign anything.

    I wish you the best.

  • Tony2Toes

    I'm going to go out on a limb here and state that the only person with an issue is you right now.

    -You've no idea what prompted this easement request from your new neighbors. None. Anything you have conjured up about them being manipulative land barons is pure conjecture on your part and somewhat revealing of your own personality type.

    -Being upset is normal. Thinking that a legal request (whether or not it has any merit) from a new neighbor over having your septic leaching field in their front yard in any way constitutes "abnormal behavior" on the part of your new neighbors is NOT normal. Let me repeat this....whether or not prior consent to easement exists, your new neighbors have every RIGHT to be concerned that YOUR septic system leaches into THEIR front yard. Or are you the only one entitled to an opinion on the matter? Last I checked, it takes two parties to make the word "neighbors" work. Have you considered that they may be nervous about YOU? Likely not I'm guessing. Remember that you made your home purchase with another party years ago and had this addressed. Why aren't they entitled to the same sense of peace? For all you know they are just as confused/puzzled as you are.

    -Chillax a bit. You've not been 'excessively burdened' you've been asked to sign something. You have a choice in the matter....do or don't. Your choice, nobody is holding a gun to your head. If you are in the right and have the documentation to substantiate it, this will all blow over into a collective sigh of relief for both you and your new neighbors. Might even find a way to laugh about it....whip up a batch of Mudslides (get it?) and invite them over to celebrate the septic affair.

    -Plenty of good suggestions for first response in this thread. You only have to hire an attorney if you want to or decide you have to (if, for example, you refuse to sign, they refuse to back down and you end up in court). If it were me, I'd do a LOT to keep it from going to court. As that will get VERY expensive and guarantee that you and your new neighbors will be the Hatfields and McCoy's soon after.

    It is totally not worth the emotional stress of escalating such a small matter in your mind until you have to. It accomplishes nothing...other than firing up your extreme judgmental nature in having you pre-disposed to think the worst of your new neighbors WITHOUT EVEN HAVING MET THEM YET.

    Calmly look at their letter again. You stated:

    "The house was sold earlier this week and yesterday we received a letter from the buyer’s agent saying that their attorney could not locate an easement agreement, so he drew one up that they are requesting we sign and pay for the right to use the easement."

    Their attorney simply states that he could not LOCATE an easement agreement. So reject the new one, offer him the locations of the old one and be done with it. If their attorney is doing his job, and your easement is valid (and if it isn't, that's a different matter), he will review and advise his clients (the new neighbors) that a pre-existing easement exists and that the matter is closed. All for the cost of a stamp where you admit NOTHING, give up NOTHING and convey NOTHING but the facts as established in public record.

    And yes, its quite possible that what you have to offer is "new news" to the attorney. He may be sloppy, he may be thorough but used incorrect search terms, or he may have already seen this and felt it wasn't sufficient to cover his clients' needs. But you'll never know unless you start with the facts.

    This post was edited by Tony2Toes on Mon, May 6, 13 at 13:32

  • Hollyclyff

    Excuse me Tony2toes, but this is what got me so upset to begin with -

    "The time for civility stopped when they handed you a legal document. You need an attorney. Now.

    If you don't do anything, they can get a suit going against you claiming you are violating their property rights. Even with your plat, you'd still have to go to court to prove you are right (and may meet a jury or judge that thinks you are wrong!)."

    Our easement is valid according to the law here. We have already found that out. We are absolutely not violating their property rights. But your statement got me worried that they had grounds to at least cost us thousands in legal fees to fight it in court.

    As Sylviatexas notes, this new document limits our rights and could increase our responsibilities if they want to be nitpicky about things down the road. I believe they knew perfectly well the easement exists and they are trying to get us to sign something that benefits them and gives us nothing that we don't already have. I won't do it.

    The easement was already there from 19 years ago. It was not an agreement made between us and someone else - it came with the land when we bought it. If they do anything to interfere with our specified use of the property we have the right to sue them. If they didn't want a property with someone else's septic field on it they shouldn't have bought it. I came here for advice on how to respond to them without ruining our relationship right off the bat and I was advised that I need an attorney right away and I could lose rights already granted to me. How would that make you feel?

    I do hope they are just being poorly advised and will drop this.
    And if they do all will be well. But if they don't, I don't see how we can have a good relationship with them.

    This post was edited by hollyclyff on Mon, May 6, 13 at 15:30

  • Tony2Toes

    -IF- they don't drop it, then my advice is valid and you need an attorney. No way would I proceed without one at that point.

    But you don't know -IF- they will drop it until/unless you respond to them in some way.

    Look, that's all I'm suggesting. Respond to them. You can choose to do so via your own methods or via an attorney. Lots of good advice in here to help you with your first response. Then, if they DO respond negatively, you can start stressing. But until/unless that happens, there is NOTHING to stress out over. You've done nothing wrong, they have done nothing wrong and worrying at this stage over -IF's- is, well....not that smart.

    Respond, then decide if this is worth any negative emotional feelings at all. I'm betting you ARE in the right, and a thoughtful (and prompt) reply with the facts will illuminate this for both them and their attorney. If it doesn't...we will cross that bridge when it happens.

    I just hate seeing people stressed out and possibly willing to sacrifice what could otherwise be a peaceful co-existence with new neighbors over -IF- situations. Too many variables at this point to worry over it IMO.

  • Hollyclyff

    We have already responded. My husband sent them a polite, simple email yesterday pointing out that we already have an easement on record and also called their real estate agent and told her the same thing. We have not heard anything back yet from either.

    I probably should not have posted here. I wasn't very worried about the actual easement issue until I came here and was advised to hire an attorney NOW. I was merely seeking advice on the best way to handle it and still be friendly.

    After years of having to carry some form of weapon in my own yard to protect against the previous neighbors' dogs (and possibly their son) I'm more than ready to get along with my new neighbors if they will let us.

  • nosoccermom

    I think you did the right thing with your response. i agree that while it may seem strange, I would try not to ascribe any sinister motives. Just wait for their answer and take it from there.
    Also, other than that there was a mistake in their easement request, how is it different from the one you already have?

  • Tony2Toes

    Holy cow, sounds like you are dealing with PTS from the prior neighbors.

    Here's hoping you get either a friendly wave in response or a "So sorry about that but thanks for helping to straighten things out."

  • Hollyclyff

    Their easement document states that our septic tank is within the easement. It is not. It is nowhere near it. Only the leach field is within the easement. The leach field is never mentioned. All the language in their document refers to the septic tank. And the only responsibility claimed by them is that they won't build within 5 feet of our septic tank -which they can't do anyway. Nothing about not doing anything else to damage our field. I feel like if we were to sign this we would be saying that we agree their only responsibility is not to build on it. And even then, since it says "septic tank" I'm not sure that would hold up if they built on our leach field. This is a LPP system. The tanks are in our yard and the effluent is pumped out to the field which is in the easement. They also aren't supposed to drive on the field, pasture livestock on it, plant trees, change the grade, block access, or do anything else to adversely effect our leach field or our ability to maintain it. All this document says is they agree not to build. It also specifically says they aren't responsible for any repairs. Well, of course not for normal repairs or repairs of something we break, but if they go out there with a backhoe and dig up a line, they are supposed to be responsible. The owner, two owners ago did damage a line and he told us and was going to fix it himself, but my husband ended up going out there and they worked together to fix it. They were good neighbors.

  • DLM2000-GW

    I'm going to throw out one other possibility here no matter how unlikely. I'm a suburban girl born and bred and know absolutely squat about septic systems and leach fields but we are looking to move into an area where they are the norm. Maybe, just maybe, your new neighbors are as naive as I am about such matters and the terms septic tank, leach field and easement all rolled into one, have THEM scared! They may even be new homeowners with no prior experience owning and that could compound this situation. Hopefully you'll hear back quickly, there will be a new understanding of the situation for them and you can move forward in a neighborly fashion - I know that's what you'd really like so I'm crossing fingers for you

  • brickeyee

    "Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers"

    Voltaire François-Marie Arouet (1694�"1778), better known by his pen name Voltaire

  • Hollyclyff

    Well, I'm sorry I asked. I just thought maybe someone else had experience with something like this and could let me know how they handled it in a way to both protect themselves and still be friendly with the neighbors. Thank you very much to the folks who helped. We're still waiting for a response from someone.

  • kathyg_in_mi

    Sure hope all this stress is for naught!
    We've lived with septic systems for 50 years. One house we were thinking of purchasing had the well (not septic) on the neighbors property. When talking to the neighbor they said that it could remain there until it needed to be replaced.
    Also, my now next door neighbors garage is 4 feet on the property of their neighbor on the other side of them. They thought the creek between the houses was the lot line (oops). They have signed an agreement that the garage would be moved if/when the house was to be sold out of the family.
    Lots of people have "issues" and most are easily handled. Perhaps, as suggested, they are just trying to protect themselves, not knowing you.
    Keep us posted please.

  • Tony2Toes

    I have a (small) suspicion that the sellers told the buyers you would be a difficult neighbor and that is likely why they involved an attorney.

    Bad blood flows both ways I've observed.

  • dekeoboe

    The house was sold earlier this week and yesterday we received a letter from the buyer’s agent saying that their attorney could not locate an easement agreement, so he drew one up that they are requesting we sign and pay for the right to use the easement.

    I believe they knew perfectly well the easement exists and they are trying to get us to sign something that benefits them and gives us nothing that we don't already have.

    New neighbors-to-be that you haven't met yet and yet you feel you know their motive. Why couldn't it just be exactly as they stated - the lawyer didn't find the easement. Perhaps, as others have stated, the lawyer was looking for the easement to be recorded someplace other than on the plat documents. And, it is not at all surprising the lawyer would draw up a document that would protect his clients more than the other party.

  • patriceny

    I wouldn't assume they have evil intentions at this point either.

    Since they're buying the house, they already have a lawyer. All sorts of things come up when someone is buying a house....and all the lawyer is doing is trying to protect his clients.

    I've seen all sorts of weird things pop up during closing, and I don't even have that much experience with real estate transactions. :) But since lawyers are all ready involved at that stage of the game, it seems pretty routine for the lawyers to try to sort it out.

    I understand you don't exactly have a lawyer on retainer. And I also understand why getting a letter from someone's lawyer could get your hackles up. But please don't let it color your perception of the new buyers. Everyone here gave some good reasons how/why this could have arisen now....I think the best thing you can do is see how it plays out.

    I agree for the initial response you provided, no lawyer is necessary. But if they keep pushing back, then my opinion is you need some legal help. Again, I "get" why that is frustrating for you. You haven't done anything wrong and you thought this was all done and settled years ago. Unfortunately this sort of thing can happen though, and also unfortunately, yes....it could cost you money to straighten it out.

    How do I know? Been there, done that. Didn't buy the t-shirt though. ;) My issue came up over an encroachment agreement (that was poorly written at the time - years ago) with a fence. Both of the involved parties were nice, reasonable people...but it still took 2 lawyers and some legal fees to sort it out.

  • brickeyee


    The Voltaire quote was aimed at the new neighbors.

    "The house was sold earlier this week and yesterday we received a letter from the buyer’s agent saying that their attorney could not locate an easement agreement, so he drew one up that they are requesting we sign and pay for the right to use the easement. The dollar amount is insignificant, but that is not the issue. We looked up their deed online and it says nothing about restrictions or easements even though the seller’s deed did."

    I immediately get suspicious of folks asking questions about settled issues.

    "We looked up their deed online and it says nothing about restrictions or easements even though the seller’s deed did."

    Something is wrong here.

    Sellers prepare and deliver deeds, not buyers.

    The "new neighbors" received a deed from the previous owner (that sounds like it has the easement included).
    They do not prepare a deed when purchasing.
    All a buyer normally does is supply name(s) for the new deed, and method of holding title (single person, joint (a number of types)) to the seller.

    The seller then prepares a deed of conveyance that the property now belongs to the buyer.

    There are hundreds of different wordings for these things, but they boil down to I [present owner] hereby convey ownership of [property description] to [new owner], with the following restrictions.

    Did the new buyers prepare a deed conveying to themselves in an attempt to extinguish the existing easement and try to force you to purchase it again?

    I hope you have owner's title insurance.
    Things like this are why you pay for it.

    Just as an example, A NH deed starts with "Know all men by these presents..." and Virgina starts off "This deed made this..."
    Recorders are very picky about page size, type size, margin, ink color, wording, and might even be affected by the phase of the moon.

  • sylviatexas1

    "I believe they knew perfectly well the easement exists and they are trying to get us to sign something that benefits them and gives us nothing that we don't already have."

    I suspect you're right;
    if they realllly didn't know, they'd have consulted the title company and/or the county, & if they consulted an attorney instead, (s)he'd have consulted the title company and/or the county.

    If buyers and their attorney really couldn't find an easement, wouldn't they have been more likely to have sent you a request to remove your stuff from their property?

    It just sounds like you're not being told the truth, & like someone is trying to manipulate you into doing something that isn't at all in your best interests.

    Just tell 'em where they can find a copy of the easement & you look forward to having them as neighbors.

  • Suzi AKA DesertDance So CA Zone 9b

    This is hard to read from a laid back So CA (lives in county land) reader. Do you have survey markers? Do you know beyond a shadow of doubt your land lines?

    If your septic field is on their land, there is not much that you can do, except pray that they don't pave it over. Septic fields need to breathe!

    Good luck

  • ncrealestateguy

    I would suggest you contact their attorney and refer him/her to the docs that you found. Ask him/her what exactly is going on. I bet a 5 minute phone call would go a long way in resolving this issue, or at least help you understand everyone's motive.
    Don't get all worked up over some personal attacks from some of the posters here... Their responses about you are actually reveals more about them.

  • brickeyee

    "If your septic field is on their land, there is not much that you can do, except pray that they don't pave it over. "

    Any easement should have placed restrictions on what the owner can do in the easement.

    That is why things like this matter.

  • southerncanuck

    There are 2 things I want to hear from my RE solicitor when I buy a property, the deed is free and clear and it contains zero easements. Easements are a red flag for me as issues such as the many brought up here have a tendency to cost me something in the future. I had to spend a kings ransom in legal fees when a right of way easement had to be settled in the courts as we were threatened with landlocking access by survivors of the original landowner of the easement. You knew there was an easement when you purchased.

    I hope it all works out for you.

  • brickeyee

    "deed is free and clear and it contains zero easements."

    Almost every house has a limited number of easements.
    'Easements of necessity" include the sewer lateral to the house, power lines to the house, water to the house, etc.

    If you live in an area with curbs, gutters, & sidewalks there is likely an easement for them.

    What you have to watch for are the 'out of the ordinary' easements.

  • camlan

    Hollyclyff, I hope you come back and let us know how this all played out.

    I know you were looking for reassurance that you wouldn't have to go to court--but, unfortunately, no one here, and no one in real life either, can give you that.

    The fact is that people sue other people all the time. There's only so much you can do to prevent it. Someone can trip and fall on your front walk--and sue you. They can slip on a patch of ice that formed overnight and you haven't had time to deal with yet--and sue you.

    We live in a world where someone can break into your house with the intent of stealing everything of value that you own, and if they get bitten by your dog, they can try to sue you.

    What I find interesting about your case is that the new buyers have no record of an easement for your leach field, but somehow they know enough to know that part of your septic system is on their property, even though they have the wrong information about which parts. It would be interesting to find out how they found out about your leach field being on their property and why they thought the access to it is on their property.

    They are getting this information from somewhere. Since it is incorrect, you should probably try to fix it at the source, if you can find it.

    Although if the source is a seller who lied to them in order to get them to buy the house, I don't think there's much you can do.

  • DLM2000-GW

    I'm also wondering what the current situations is an hope you come back with an update.

  • Hollyclyff

    All is well. We have met the new people and they seem very nice. Their attorney had already acknowledged that the easement is legal and valid, but I guess their agent thought there should be something more. Apparently she nor the attorney had any experience with rural property, or even property in this county, and weren't familiar with how common septic easements are around here and how they work. The agent is the one who said they couldn't find the easement, but the attorney had already found the plat and said it met the requirements. The buyers hadn't even seen the document we were mailed. And the sellers, true to their nature that we've come to know over the years, were very unhelpful. Sounds like they didn't even disclose anything until the last minute and refused to provide any more information and were generally a PITA all along the process. Maybe that's why it took them 5 years to sell the house. But anyway, the new people are satisfied with everything and we don't foresee any more issues. You can't imagine what a relief it is to be rid of the last people. They were a nightmare! I think things will be much better around here now.

  • kathyg_in_mi

    And have a Happy Mother's Day.

  • DLM2000-GW

    So glad things worked out for you and you're getting a *new improved, upgrade* version of neighbors!! I'm not surprised they are new to rural living because I can imagine being in their shoes - it's a scary learning curve. We also had less than nice neighbors who sold last summer and the new people are just lovely so I understand your nervousness going in.

  • ncrealestateguy

    Good to hear.

  • brickeyee

    "I guess their agent thought there should be something more."

    Time for a letter to the agents broker to reign her in.

  • Tony2Toes

    Happy Ending!

  • barbcollins

    "Time for a letter to the agents broker to reign her in."

    I agree.

    The agent sent a letter stating that they attorney could not find a recorded easement and drew one up.

    Reality was the attorney did find the easement and said it was sufficient.

    That's more than the agent thinking there should be something more. He/she lied about he circumstances.and caused the OP a lot of stress, and could have cost the OP legal fees if she had went that way.

    But, I can understand the OP dropping it for the sake of the relationship with the new neighbors.

  • StellaMarie

    Hollyclyff, so glad to hear it all went well!

    Yikes, that agent really stirred up trouble for you and the new homeowners! Not a big fan of the lawyer, either, if the letter really was sent without client consent.

    I'm really glad you stayed calm, reasonable and rational, and it sounds like your neighbors acted similarly. Well done not to escalate this after receiving the letter! :)

  • Suzi AKA DesertDance So CA Zone 9b

    Ditto! That was a nightmare you had to deal with, and a lot of unsupportive posters on here.

    Sorry for that!

  • Circus Peanut

    We were in your new neighbors' shoes last year, purchasing from sellers who were shifty and fairly dishonest about a lot of the house's issues - minor ones, but enough to make us distrust both them and their agent. If there had been an easement involved and sellers who weren't providing the correct (or any!) details, we might also have wanted some reassurance that all was legal.

    But it sounds like the buyers weren't even aware of their agent's hijincks, even if the agent was similarly motivated (not being sure all the information was being correctly provided).

    Happy resolution to an unnerving situation.

  • dutty

    So happy for you... congrats!

    I so wish the world was a nicer place and none of us had to worry about crappy neighbors, lawyers, and RE agents!! I'm really thrilled that neighbors 4.0 are such an improvement over 3.0! :)

  • lizzie_nh

    I know this is a few months old, and is resolved.

    But, I thought I would briefly add my experience in case someone else happens upon this thread and is looking for more information.

    My house is currently under contract to sell, but when it was still active on the market, I did some "deed research" of my own. My property has a power company easement and we were attempting to determine on our own just how wide the easement area is. TOur house is only 10 years old, was built as part of a subdivision (plans drawn up in the '90s), and we are the first owners, but the land has had power lines running through it for 60+ years. For now they are pretty non-intrusive - smaller wooden poles, in a narrow corridor, hidden by woods.

    Our deed and previous deeds dating back to the 1950s referenced an easement agreement dated 1945. I looked up that document and found that the easement was 100 feet wide. Our deed also said something like the property is subject to any and all matters shown on the subdivision plan. I looked up the plan, and it showed an easement area which is 190 feet wide.

    Well, I was not convinced that the mere fact that the subdivision plan shows a much wider easement, and my deed says the property is subject to matters in the plan, was enough to "prove" that the easement was that wide. At what point did 100 feet turn into 190 feet? I wanted to find the actual easement document, which must have been drawn up. The actual document granting the original easement is referenced - by book and page number - on the deed. Why is the document granting 190 feet not? Does it even exist?

    In this case, I kept digging. I started looking up documents by name, using names of all previous owners of the land. That is when I found a document from the 1960s, in which another owner sold the widened area to the power company. This easement was recorded with the Registry of Deeds, but was never recorded on any subsequent deed for the property. The person who drew up the subdivision plan in the 1990s is the same one who sold the easement back in the 1960s, so of course he knew about it. Really, our deed should have spelled out that the property is subject to an easement from X date, rather than just referencing the subdivision plan, which provides no actual proof of the easement agreement.

    I guess my point is that if I were the new neighbor I would want to find the actual document granting the easement. The plat would not be enough. It's not that I would necessarily dispute it, but for my own satisfaction and to avoid any dispute down the line when I sell my house, I would want to see the original document on which the easement is recorded. In lieu of that, I would want to draw up a new one, just to square everything away. I'm not a lawyer, so I certainly can't say whether the appearance of the easement on the plat, and the statements on earlier deeds, are enough to "prove" beyond a shadow of a doubt that the easement exists. It certainly makes a strong case, but mostly to make everything clean and neat for any future buyers, I would want to make sure it was recorded somewhere else.

  • lizzie_nh

    And briefly, another experience (on my large rural lot.)

    Part of a neighbor's driveway, two houses down, crosses the very far corner of our lot. This is not referenced on our deed, or their deed. From my rather extensive research, no easement or right of way is recorded anywhere. Looking at who owned what when and talking to the neighbor, we can tell what happened and we have no doubt that they got verbal permission for the driveway to be situated where it is, and that at that time, this was actually to the benefit of the person giving permission (who wanted to build and have a shared driveway.) Nevertheless, it is not recorded anywhere.

    We have had several buyers concerned about this situation. They're even MORE concerned when they learn that it is not an "official" easement. I think it's likely that future plats may show the driveway as a right of way, despite no written document to that effect. We're not going to quibble at this point and their driveway has been there since before our house was built, but it would not at all surprise me if our buyer wants to draw up an official easement, just to make everything neat and tidy.

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